Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Nectar and IllusionNature in Byzantine Art and Literature$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Henry Maguire

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199766604

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199766604.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 29 January 2020

Nature and Abstraction

Nature and Abstraction

Chapter:
(p.106) 4 Nature and Abstraction
Source:
Nectar and Illusion
Author(s):

Henry Maguire

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199766604.003.0004

This chapter considers the question of the extent to which the unfigured intarsia floors of the medieval Byzantine churches and palaces were read by the Byzantines as abstract depictions of the earth and its rivers, that is, as symbols. These were frequently described by Byzantine writers as the earth, or as colorful flowering meadows, and their marbles were compared to rivers or to seas. Were such descriptions merely conventional metaphors, or did they convey a more fundamental association of the floor with terrestrial creation, and, if so can the abstraction of the images be interpreted as disengagement—that is, as a visual defense against their use in idolatry? There was an apparent ideological opposition between the trope frequently expressed by Byzantine writers that sacred figures were distinguished by a spotless pallor, and the other trope that described the variety of colors provided by nature, as might be seen in plants or in the polychromatic stones of a pavement. The chapter also explores some of the possible motivations that lay behind the abstraction of portrayals of plants and animals in other media in medieval Byzantine art.

Keywords:   intarsia floors, churches, palaces, earth, rivers, symbols, seas, idolatry, pallor, disengagement, metaphors

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .