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The Icons of Their Bodies: Saints and Their Images in Byzantium [Paperback]

By Henry Maguire (Author)
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Item Number 151108  
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Item description for The Icons of Their Bodies: Saints and Their Images in Byzantium by Henry Maguire...

The Byzantines surrounded themselves with their saints, invisible but constant companions, who were made visible by dreams, visions, and art. The composition and presentation of this imagined gallery followed a logical structure, a construct that was itself a collective work of art created by Byzantine society. The purpose of this book is to analyze the logic of the saint's image in Byzantium, both in portraits and in narrative scenes. Here Henry Maguire argues that the Byzantines gave to their images differing formal characteristics of movement, modeling, depth, and differentiation, according to the tasks that the icons were called upon to perform in the all-important business of communication between the visible and the invisible worlds.

The book draws extensively on sources that have been relatively little utilized by art historians. It considers both domestic and ecclesiastical artifacts, showing how the former raised the problem of access by lay men and women to the supernatural and fueled the debates concerning the role of images in the Christian cult. Special attention is paid to the poems inscribed by the Byzantines upon their icons, and to the written lives of their saints, texts that offer the most direct and vivid insight into the everyday experience of art in Byzantium. The overall purpose of the book is to provide a new view of Byzantine art, one that integrates formal analysis with both theology and social history.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Princeton University Press
Pages   240
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 10" Width: 7.52" Height: 0.6"
Weight:   1.72 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 28, 2000
Publisher   Princeton University Press
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  0691050074  
ISBN13  9780691050072  

Availability  145 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 28, 2016 01:59.
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More About Henry Maguire

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Henry Maguire teaches the history of art at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Art and Eloquence in Byzantium (1994).

Henry Maguire was born in 1943 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Johns Hopkins University.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Art > Art History > Regional > European
2Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Art > Art History > Schools, Periods & Styles > Ancient & Classical
3Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Art > Art History > Schools, Periods & Styles > Medieval
4Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Art > Religious
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Orthodoxy

Reviews - What do customers think about The Icons of Their Bodies?

A detailed, high quality study of Iconography  Sep 17, 2003
Please take the time to peruse the sample pages. They give a better overview of the book than I can attempt here. However, I learned a great deal about the influences of various iconographers and the religious reasons behind their various approaches to writing icons. While not a devotional book per se, it does contain a great deal of hagiographical information that an Orthodox would find beneficial.

Some insights that I learned in the reading:

In chapter three there is a discussion on the question of naming the saint in the icon and the need for proper, accurate representation. The author contends that after the iconoclastic period, the theology of the icon shifted to take the "power" or agency away from the image itself, the actual physical piece of wood and paint, to the one who is represented. This meant that the images had to be labeled with the saint's name to enable the viewer to communicate with the saint behind the image. I would argue that while this is true, it is not entirely true. Speaking as an Orthodox Christian, too much can be made of the label. The oil that weeps from icons heals even the atheists of diseases, without faith on their part. Likewise, speaking theologically, the basis of Christian iconography is the dual natures of Christ- fully human and fully God. Christ's universal power in the particular saints operates accordingly. The universal is given even if the particular is not understood or, perhaps, willingly approached. To a non-Christian, or even a non-Orthodox, this statement may sound ridiculous. But then again, the icons are not meant to be in museums, but rather in the homes and churches of the faithful. Icons in museums, unvenerated and without their candles, are truly fish out of water. Henry Maguire, I would say, supports this understanding in this book. On a more kitsch level, it is akin to the World Market approach to selling little Buddhas to be placed on the floor in fancy homes.

I chapter four there is an interesting analysis of the use of detail in painting with the curious observation that "the less the important the imagery, the richer it could be in detail, and conversely, the higher its status, the more it should be deficient" (166).

This book reaffirms that while secular art has its own philosophy, Orthodox iconography must be approached from its own unique perspective.

Another highly recommended work on Iconography is the beautifully bound and illustrated "The Resurrection and the Icon" by Quenot. Very well done!


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