Recent studies have privileged ritual and liturgy as keys to the interpretation of Byzantine art. These texts provide a modern audience with a means of imagining the relationship between viewer and viewed, implying an overcoming of the distinction between the object and the one looking. It is a seductive and comprehensive form of analysis with a lengthy and distinguished pedigree. This essay questions this interpretive strategy by arguing against the privileging of this verbal performative text over its visual counterpart. Working from the example of the eleventh-century mosaic decoration in the Nea Moni on Chios, this paper argues that ritual practice, verbal and visual representation each offer distinct and equivalent means of knowing the subject of their forms of representation. As such, it becomes possible to question the validity of the claim that ascribes the origin of the work of art to the prior liturgical text.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Visual Arts and Performing Arts