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Image and Narration in Byzantium: New Testament Cycles in Palaiologan Monumental Painting

Nektarios Zarras, University of the Aegean, Summer Fellow 2013/14

Zarras 13/14: Fig. 1
St. George, Staro Nagoričane: Peter asks Christ about John

During my fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks, I had the opportunity to prepare a paper entitled “Narrating the Sacred Story: New Testament Cycles in Middle and Late Byzantine Period” for publication. I presented this paper at Dumbarton Oaks here a few months earlier, at the Spring Symposium ("New Testament in Byzantium," 26–28 April).

My research at Dumbarton Oaks was based on the cycles of the Passion and Eothina gospels represented in monuments decorated by the painters Michael and Eutychios Astrapas. I focused on three main areas: first, the methods of organizing and depicting the extensive narrative cycles; second, the influence of the texts on the arrangement and the iconography of the scenes; and third, the perception of the sacred story by the beholder. It emerges from the expansion of the cycles that the painters, in collaboration with the designers of the programs, followed the gospel text and the rhetoric of images, thus creating superb ensembles in which the scenes are transformed into narrative media. Episodes that, within the narrative, function as prologue and epilogue to the central scenes, as well as dialogues between the protagonists, dramatize the sacred story in such a way that the beholder lives an exciting experience of instruction through imagery.

In addition, I had the opportunity to embark on the Ministry Cycle of Christ depicted in the Chora monastery. I hope that the results of this endeavor will be published soon.


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Byzantine Studies Fellows, 2013/14