Contesting the Logic of Painting

Art and Understanding in Eleventh-Century Byzantium


Studies of the icon in Byzantium have tended to focus on the iconoclastic era of the eighth- and ninth-centuries. This study shows that discussion of the icon was far from settled by this lengthy dispute. While the theory of the icon in Byzantium was governed by a logical understanding that had limited painting to the visible alone, the four authors addressed in this book struggled with this constraint. Symeon the New Theologian, driven by a desire for divine vision, chose, effectively, to disregard the icon. Michael Psellos used a profound neoplatonism to examine the relationship between an icon and miracles. Eustratios of Nicaea followed the logic of painting to the point at which he could clarify a distinction between painting from theology. Leo of Chalcedon attempted to describe a formal presence in the divine portrait of Christ. All told, these authors open perspectives on the icon that enrich and expand our own modernist understanding of this crucial medium.

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Charles Barber, Ph.D. (1989) in the History of Art, Courtauld Institute of Art, is Associate Professor in the History of Art at the University of Notre Dame. He has published numerous essays on Byzantine art. His books include Figure and Likeness: On the Limits of Representation in Byzantine Iconoclasm (Princeton, 2002).
List of Illustrations . . . ix
Foreword . . xi
Acknowledgements . . xv
List of Abbreviations . . xvii
Chapter One The Synodikon of Orthodoxy and the Ground of Painting . .. 1
Chapter Two Symeon the New Theologian: Seeing Beyond Painting . . 23
Chapter Three Michael Psellos: Seeing Through Painting . . 61
Chapter Four Eustratios of Nicaea and the Constraints of Theology . 99
Chapter Five Leo of Chalcedon, Euthymios Zigabenos and the Return to the Past . . 131
Afterword . 159
Bibliography . .. 165
Index . . . 177
All those interested in intellectual history, orthodox theology, Byzantine and Medieval aessthetics, visuality, and art history, and those interested in the history and meaning of the icon.
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