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Title: Inscribed within the image : the visual character of early Christian mosaic inscriptions
Author: Leatherbury, Sean Villareal
ISNI:       0000 0004 2735 0246
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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Between the fourth and the seventh centuries CE, Christian patrons erected thousands of churches, chapels, and monasteries in cities and villages across the Mediterranean, decorating the apses, walls and floors of many of these structures with figural and geometric mosaics. These late antique Christian mosaics have been studied for their iconography, their Graeco-Roman components, and as evidence for the religious beliefs of newly-Christian patrons. However, art historians largely have ignored the ways that texts, inscribed within the visual field and composed of the same mosaic material, functioned as images in Christian spaces. For the first time, this thesis assembles the foundations of a comprehensive catalogue of early Christian mosaic inscriptions, places them back into the physical spaces in which they were meant to be read, and analyzes how these texts functioned both verbally and visually for the late antique reader/viewer, against the backdrop of Graeco-Roman traditions. I first examine the ekphrastic components of Christian inscriptions and look more closely at the different ways in which texts work with and against images and spaces, encouraging the viewer to react physically and mentally. Second, I study the language of light used by the inscriptions, and argue that this language linked text to the material of mosaic and enabled patrons to make complex statements about their cultural erudition and religious affiliation. Third, I investigate the functions and visual forms of short tituli which label scenes or name figures to simplify, authenticate or transform static images into narratives in motion. Finally, I turn to the frames of the inscriptions and contend that different forms conveyed powerful visual arguments. By writing these texts back into their mosaics, this thesis argues that texts and images were inseparable in the period, and that text written into images performed and played in more complex ways than has been previously thought.
Supervisor: Elsner, Jas Sponsor: Corpus Christi College ; Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Art ; History of art and visual culture ; Late antiquity and the Middle Ages ; Medieval and Modern Greek ; Late antique art ; mosaics ; epigraphy ; inscriptions ; Greek ; Latin