15.08.38, Jones, ed., Byzantine Images and their Afterlives

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Sharon Gerstel

The Medieval Review 15.08.38

Jones, Lynn, ed. Byzantine Images and their Afterlives: Essays in Honor of Annemarie Weyl Carr. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2014. pp. xxii, 266.
Reviewed by:
Sharon Gerstel
University of California, Los Angeles

Only in rare Festschriften can one feel the deep affection of the authors for the honored subject; this is one such volume. Like the work of Annemarie Weyl Carr, whose exquisitely crafted and complex scholarship on the medieval East can be likened to beautifully designed and intricately nested matryoshka dolls, the interlocking essays in this volume present objects and buildings in different ways, opening them to new approaches, and delving deeply into their inner cores. Bonnie Wheeler introduces the volume in an essay that is so beautifully crafted and so revealing of its subject that this reader was left breathless with admiration, not only for the author's prose, but also for the subject of her analysis. With love and admiration, Wheeler reveals Carr as a "Julius Feiffer heroine," a profoundly humble yet academically pedigreed woman, a "peacemaker but never a dealmaker," a scholar whose teaching is as "clear and rare as crystal," and a "luminous" and passionate thinker. Surely such accolades must be exaggerated. In fact, they are accurate. Let us add one more word to the list: brilliant.

The twelve essays in this volume (an intentional number?) are the scholarly products of Carr's students and close colleagues. A number of the essays derive from an event held at Southern Methodist University in 2008 on the occasion of Carr's retirement from that university. The volume editor has cleverly grouped the essays under four headings that match Carr's long-term scholarly interests: manuscript studies, intent and reception, Cyprus and its influence, and the nature of copies. A subvention from SMU's Department of Art History supported the inclusion of fifteen color plates; seventy images are reproduced in black and white.

The first section of the book, "Manuscripts: Workshops, Subgroups, and Influences," includes essays by Kathleen Maxwell, Justine M. Andrews, and Pamela Patton. Maxwell's essay, "The Afterlife of Texts: Decorative Style Manuscripts and New Testament Textual Criticism," takes up a set of 109 manuscripts comprehensively studied by Annemarie Weyl Carr in 1987. [1] Although the manuscripts have a distinctive figure style, color palette, and epigraphy, the origin(s) of the decorative style have been difficult to place. Created between 1150 and 1250, the manuscripts were produced at a time in which centers outside of Constantinople were increasingly generating high style works of art and one in which the empire was fractured by the Fourth Crusade. Consequently, manuscripts within this group have been assigned to production centers in Cyprus, Palestine, Nicaea, and even Constantinople. Using data published by the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung of Münster, Maxwell asks whether textual relations can be used to verify the manuscript subgroups established by Carr in her 1987 study. [2] The author also looks at unaffiliated manuscripts and probes their relationship to the group. This is a complicated exercise in which the art historian and textual critic must work hand in hand. Maxwell's findings are preliminary, but some of her conclusions already seem promising--particularly the discovery that scribes copied the Gospel texts of decorative style manuscripts for at least two centuries, even after the painted style of the works had fallen out of favor. In "Flexibility and Fusion in Eastern Mediterranean Manuscript Production: Oxford, Bodleian, Laud. Gr. 86," Justine M. Andrews draws on her deep knowledge of Byzantine Commentaries on Job to propose that a sixteenth-century illustrated Job, today in Oxford, might have been produced on Cyprus. In support of this argument, Andrews looks at the manuscript's relationship to monumental painting in Famagusta and connections to an earlier Job manuscript that might have been brought to the island from Mistra. Of interest is Andrews' discussion of the German binding of the Oxford manuscript, and potential connections to the Cypriot scribe Hieronymos Tragoudistes, who worked in Augsburg in the mid sixteenth century. Pamela Patton's beautifully written and well documented essay, "The Little Jewish Boy: Afterlife of a Byzantine Legend in Thirteenth-Century Spain," traces the origins of a Marian miracle story from the sixth-century Ecclesiastical History of Evagrius Scholasticus into the thirteenth-century Cantigas de Santa Maria in Spain. Focusing on the illustration of Cantiga 4, Patton suggests that innovative features of the story's representation--particularly features of physiognomy and dress--should be linked to attempts to "explore and delineate boundaries between those of different faiths" (78).

The second section of the book includes strong essays by Diliana Angelova, Lynn Jones, and Ida Sinkević, all former students of Carr whose contributions display the mark of her exemplary teaching. In "Stamp of Power: The Life and Afterlife of Pulcheria's Buildings," Angelova re-examines the architectural commissions of the powerful fifth-century Augusta, reinserting buildings--particularly imperial palaces--into the urban and economic fabric of Constantinople. Pulcheria's association with a church dedicated to St. Lawrence places her within the rank of other Theodosian rulers who favored the cult of this saint through important building projects in Rome and Ravenna--a point that could be further explored. Lynn Jones, writing about "Perceptions of Byzantium: Radegund of Poitiers and Relics of the True Cross," demonstrates how relics obtained from Constantinople enabled Radegund of Poitiers to exert authority as a royal woman and nun in Merovingian Gaul. Jones assembles a number of sources to consider the construction of Radegund's image over centuries--verses written by the poet Venantius Fortunatus, the words of the nun's Vita, a eulogy by Gregory of Tours, later paintings and records, and precious reliquaries. Close examination of the sources indicates that there are, in fact, two relics of the True Cross associated with Radegund, one housed in a reliquary that is now lost, the other in an eleventh- or twelfth-century triptych reliquary. The final essay in this section, Ida Sinkević's "Afterlife of the Rhodes Hand of St. John the Baptist," could be the blueprint for a longer study. The essay was so fascinating to read that this reader had hoped it would continue on for pages. Sinkević traces the relic--the right hand and arm of the saint--from its earliest history to the present day. The relic was moved from Antioch, to Constantinople, to Rhodes, to Malta, to Russia, and finally to Montenegro, passing from emperors, to Knights Hospitallers, to tsars, to Bolsheviks, to Communists, and finally to monks. This fast-paced essay--one of Sinkević's best publications to date--has all the makings of a movie script. It is a piece that I will certainly assign to students to stimulate an interest in Byzantine art. My only regret is that the essay included only one illustration.

The third section, "Cypriot Influences," contains essays by Michele Bacci and Maria Vassilaki. Considering Carr's impact on the study of this island, an additional essay would have been welcome. Bacci's essay, "Some Remarks on the Appropriation, Use, and Survival of Gothic Forms on Cyprus," examines the role of Gothic forms in non-Latin contexts on this island, even continuing into the Ottoman period. In this contribution, as in much of his recent work, Bacci questions the terminology that is used to define "the phenomena of juxtaposition and coexistence of different artistic manifestations in the same context or even the same building" (149). His nuanced approach to style takes us one step closer to creating an appropriate definition of artistic and architectural currents in the eastern Mediterranean. Maria Vassilaki's "Byzantine Icon-Painting Around 1400: Constantinople or Crete?" builds on the author's previous studies of late Byzantine/early modern painting on Crete. Looking at specific icons, Vassilaki highlights the challenges of matching written sources and material remains, understanding workshop practices, tracing artistic influences, and defining painting styles. A welcome addition to this discussion is her consideration of Walters Art Museum W. 335, a Cretan manuscript dated to 1415.

The last section of the book, "The Nature of Copies," includes essays by Jaroslav Folda, Anthony Cutler, Rossitza B. Schroeder, and Ann Driscoll. Folda's essay, "The Use of Çintamani as Ornament: A Case Study in the Afterlife of Forms," looks at an ornamental form--"the auspicious jewel"--that may have originated in Buddhist and Hindu works in the East, but moved to the West via the Silk Road. Tracing a large number of examples, from the Book of Kells, to a Crusader icon, to a Titian painting, Folda takes the reader on a fascinating journey across time and space, focusing on a decorative detail whose meaning was surely transformed as it crossed cultural boundaries. Anthony Cutler spins an intriguing tale of an ivory Crucifixion plaque in "Twice is Not Enough: The Biography of a 'Byzantine' Crucifixion Ivory." Through careful detective work and superlative connoisseurship, Cutler demonstrates that a "Byzantine" ivory presented in two different forms on the art market is a not-so-clever forgery. Rossitza Schroeder's contribution, "The Salvation of the Soul and the Road to Heaven: The Representation of the Ladder of Divine Ascent in the Vatopedi Katholikon," examines the painted juxtaposition of the Heavenly Ladder of John Climacus and a secular banquet in the narthex of a powerful Athonite church. Schroeder sees the adjacent images--linked to their spatial and monastic context--as two parts of a larger composition: "two worlds, one of spiritual struggle and one of physical indulgence" (221). The final essay in the volume, Anne Driscoll's "Death and Life: The Persistence of Sacred Imagery from the Croce Dipinta of Alberto Sotio," analyzes monumental crucifixes that copied or were influenced by a single painted cross from Spoleto, Umbria.

The volume ends with a list of publications by Annemarie Weyl Carr. A quick perusal of this impressive list reveals the development of her scholarship and her sustained commitment to the island of Cyprus. This commitment is particularly evident in the large number of recent books on Cyprus that Carr has edited or co-edited, placing the Sweet Land at the center of scholarly discourse. Byzantine Images and their Afterlives is an impressive tribute to Annemarie Wey Carr's scholarship, mentorship, and friendship. This handsome volume, together with many of Carr's publications, will find a welcome spot on this reviewer's bookshelf.



1. Annemarie Weyl Carr, Byzantine Illumination, 1150-1250: The Study of a Provincial Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).

2. On this subject, see also Alison Welsby, A Textual Study of Family 1 in the Gospel of John (Berlin, 2013) and Warren Langford, From Text to Art and Back Again: Verifying A. Weyl Carr's Manuscript Groupings through Textual Analysis (PhD diss., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 2008), the latter cited by Maxwell.

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