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Adam and Eve in the Western and Byzantine Art of the Middle Ages

Adam and Eve in the Western and Byzantine Art of the Middle Ages

By Vasiliki Mavroska

PhD Dissertation, University of Frankfurt, 2010

12th century depiction of Adam and Eve in Sicily

12th century depiction of Adam and Eve in Sicily

Abstract: The pictorial art of the Church, as a spiritual product of the Christian civilisation, has continually received great influences from its ecclesiastical tradition and it was defined by its formal aesthetical standards and its iconographic preferences. A more nuanced reading of the parallels can be attained by placing the images in their visual context, which would allow a better appreciation of the meanings within. The biblical story of Adam and Eve, which is the theme of the following thesis, reflects the differentiation between the Eastern and the Western understanding of the events of the history of the holy Oikonomia, a point, which is the major ground for the development of the relative pictorial motifs. The protoplasts are the protagonists from their creation and life in paradise, the fall and expulsion until their resurrection through Christ.

Their story is visualised in a number of scenes and episodes, having thus their original sin and resurrection for specific reasons centralised. This doctoral thesis attempts to collect as many parallels of the scenes is possible, trying to collate the Eastern with the Western visual approach in a deductive way, in order to reach our constructive conclusions and make available the combination of the art, theology and liturgy in the scenes of Adam and Eve in Genesis and in Resurrection (Anastasis). The reading we tried to perform was based upon the specific iconographical elements, which were worth to be commented. Our aim was to detect the direct bond between the production of art and the relevant patristic and apocryphal writings or even the theological theories, by quoting texts from the ecclesiastical literature, as well as the liturgical praxis.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Frankfurt

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