Specific Examples of Holy Portraits

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Peter and Paul

Fig. 91. Gold-glass portrait of Petti* arnj Rayl,Vaticun

Mu$ivm,Vatican City {©Thti InternatiortaJ Catacomb Society Photo: Eite le B-ettman),

Epiphamus's condemnation of them by name indicates that portraits of Peter, John, and Haul were the earliest recognizable saints' portraits to appear in Christian art. Rusebius likewise had mentioned seeing portraits of Peter and Paul, painted in colors, which were being accorded certain kinds of honors,Ji Augustine mentions portraits of Peter and Paul with Christ in a passing comment on misattribution of books to Lhese apostles* based on such pictures.24 And extant art historical data show that while ico no graphic representations of all twelve apostles, often seated to either side of Jesus, are relatively common in the mid-fourth century, those of Peter and Pa til begin to show particular, recognizable facia] features from that time. The other apostles are not easily recognliable at this early stage, and it will be some centuries before their facial likenesses are established according to tradition. Petei and Paul, however, are not only early to appear but frequent by the late fourth century, especially on Roman sarcophagi, where they often are placed on either side of Christ giving the law.

In addition to Peter and Paul being perceived as the representative leaders of the two "branches11 of the church (Jews and Gentiles, respectively), another obvious explanation for their particular popularity in Rome, as well as their being frequently shown 111 double portraits, is the Roman church's claim to have a double apostolic foundation and to be the site of the martyrdom and burial of both saints. Rome's Christian identity is associated with these two in particular, and their portraits are widespread by the beginning of the fifth century. Moreoever, in addition to painting and sculpture, their likenesses appear on ivories, gold-glass (fig. 93), metalwork, and pottery, as wrell as mosaic (fig. 94)."

An interesting iconographic transformation of the mid-fourth century is the assimilation of Peter and Moses into what were formerly representations of Moses' striking the rock to provide water for the Israelites in the wilderness (Exod 17:1-6; Num 20:2-12). In these scenes, the Israelites are similarly changed into Roman soldiers, wearing short tunics and fur caps. Although the transformation of the imagery may be based on a play on Peter's name (petros = rock J, or—more likely—an earlier (no longer

Fig. 91. Gold-glass portrait of Petti* arnj Rayl,Vaticun

Mu$ivm,Vatican City {©Thti InternatiortaJ Catacomb Society Photo: Eite le B-ettman),

existing) version of a later (perhaps sixth-century) insertion into the apocrypha) v^cts of Peter thai describes his striking Lhe walls of his prison in order to baptize his Roman jailers, the typology of Peter as new Moses was also known in the: literature. Augustine, elaborating on the text of I Cor 10:4 [which cites the rock-striking story and makes Christ the rock), continues Paul's typology by making Moses the figure for Peter. Moses doubted the Lord's good will, just as Peter denied Christ during the trial and doubted that he would be resurrected as he promised,3" Such a typology makes sense out of the frequently combined sarcophagus images of Peter s arrest, the rooster, and the striking of the rock (fig. 95), The iconography also confirms that Peter, particularly in Rome, is the new leader of God's people, taking the place of Moses in the "old dispensation."

Fig, 94, Portrait of Jésus with Fréter and Paul.bte Sth or earl/6th cen. CE. rnosaic h the chapel oftie Archiépiscopal Museur-, Ravenna (Photo: William Tsbbernee).

Fig 95, Peter striding the roc^ 4th cen. C£ sarcophagus, Museo Pio Cnstiano, Vatican City (Photo: Author),

Passion Jesus Sarcophagi

h g. 96- Cam ant: Abel, with the arrtí.L of Peter arid the: empty CH5S, from a 4th «n c..i ' Passion" sarcophagus, Ml seo Rio Cristiano. Vatican City (Photo Author).

Elsewhere, as on the Junius Bassus sarcophagus, Peter's arrest is juxtaposed with that of Chrisfs, since it is in a parallel niche on the upper register (fig, 14, \\ 34). Paul's arrest appears in the lower register in the far right with a Rnmail soldier drawing his sword to suggest his beheading. Jn the center of the upper register, a youthful Christ is enthroned with his feet on the head of the god Cae I us. On either side tif Christ Stand Peter and PauL On an cither, single-registeis sarcophagus from Rome of approximately the same date (ca. 360), the composition shows the arrest of Peter to the left of a centered triumphal cross surmounted by a christogram within a wreath and, to the right, the arrest of Paul (fig, 96), On the far left, Cain and Abel present their sacrifices to God, and on the far right Job appears with his wife. The parallels with the Junius Bassus sarcophagus are marked even though the latter is of superior quality. However, on the single-register sarcophagus, the facial types of Peter and Paul are more clearly delinea Led, perhaps because they are not as likely to have been restored by later artisans. In the second sarcophagus, Peter has thick hair that comes down over his forehead and a trimmed beard, while Paul is balding and his face is longer.

A similar presentation of the two apostles' facial types appears on a tomb carving from the late fourth century. In this case, both apostles are identified by name. Peter's hair is curly and thicker and comes down over his broad brow, and his jaw is quite square. Paul's forehead is more prominent, his hairline receding, and his beard slightly longer, making his face appear more narrow and his features finer. Between their two heads the christogram appears agairu The two apostles also appear with Christ in the apse mosaic of Rome's Basilica of Santa Pudenziana, dated to the turn of the fifth century. The majestic Christ sits on a jeweled throne in the center of the composition, Hanked by the apostles. Immediately to Christ's right and left are Paul and Peter, identifiable by their facial types. Two female figures, offering crowns to these two "chief" apostles are usually i den lifted as person ifka Lions of the Church of the Gentiles and the Church of the Jews, Although the mosaic has been much changed by restorations over the centuries, the central figures in the composition appear to be more or less original (fig. 97)/'

In addition to the tomb carving described above, possibly the earliest known example of a double portrait of Peter and Paul is found on a in id-fourth-century terracotta bowl, now in New York's Metropolitan Museum. The exterior of the bowl has four circular stamps of a christogram enclosed in a wreath. The inside floor of the bowl is also stamped, but with an image of Peter and Paul, each identified by name. The two are seated facing one another as if having a conversation, and Peter extends his right arm, pointing at Paul, while Paul's own right hand is raised in the traditional gesture of speech Here, both Peter and Paul are beardless, and Peters hair appears to be shorter than Paul's, which curls and covers the back of his neck. Between their two heads is another christogram inside a wreath." Other examples of the paired portraits of Peter and Paul appear on gold-glass, as well as one on a fresco in the Cemetery of Severo in Naples (ca, 350-450).-'-1 in most of

Fig 97, Christ with Peter and Paul, detail of apse mosaic, Basilic? ofSanta P^denziana, Rome (Photo; Author).

these cases, the christogram is placed between the heads of the two apostles, or Christ appears to offer them both wreaths of victory.

The traditional facial features given to Peter and Paul become even consistent and pronounced through the next century Peter's lace is broader, his hair thicker and curling over his brow. Paul* on the other hand has a narrower face, somewhat pointed beard, and balding head* Their appearances are so marked Lhat identification does not depend on the inclusion of their names, as in most sarcophagus presentations as well as others in ivory, bronze, or mosaic: for example, the late fourth -century dome mosaic of the baptistery of the Naples cathedral; a late t'ourth-ccmury lamp in the shape of a ship (that is, the church), with Paul in [he stem and Peter at the helm; a fifth-eeiitury ivory belt buckle showing the meeting of" Peter and Paul in Rome; or the sixth-century portrait medallions of Peter and Paul Hanking iesus in the main arch of the basilica of Sail Vitale in Ravenna.1"1

Such conventions may come from oral tradition or brief references in apocryphal texts, since there is no extant canonical description of either man, For example, the Acts iff Paul and Thecla {3.3) describes Paul as "small in stature, bald-headed, with crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked, full of friendliness; for now he appeared like a man, and now he had the iacc of an angel/'3-' This description apparently influenced only the common ico no graphic presentation of Paul with a receding hairline. No Written description of Peter exists, apart from a thirteenth-century history ot" the church written by Kicephorus Callistus that describes Peter as being of moderate stature, with a pale face and thick, wooly, yellow hair. It goes on to add that he had dark, bloodshot eyes, raised eyebrows, and a long flat nose. This same author describes Paul as having a small frame, curved shoulders, high forehead, narrow nose, arid long face.10 A different theory, however, proposes that the portraits of Peter and Paui> as recognizable as they were, were based oil conventions that revealed Lhe model as a philosopher or teacher/' According to Paul Zanker Paul's face is modeled on Socratesl while Peter's is based on the typical appearance of a Cynic or itinerant philosopher^

The compositional pairing of Peter and Paul with fesus giving the law and/or the keys {tmditio legis ttdavium) varies somewhat according to geographical region. Those images that come from Rome tend to show Peter receiving the law from Christ's left hand, while Paul stands in the place of honor to Christs right (see figs. 14, 62-63, 67t 77), whereas artworks from outside of Rome (for example, a number of sarcophagi found ill Ravenna) often show Paul receiving the law from Christ's right hand. This variation of placement and of which apostle is given the law may reflect a tradition of rivalry between the two apostles or the churches claiming their foundation, or it may be nothing more than a Variance of Lradi Lions between Rome and Other regions," In some of the images, Peter and Paul are given equal stature and, moreover, appear facing one another in a composition often identified by art historians as the concordia apostolorumIn the two dome mosaics of the Orthodox and Arian baptisteries in Ravenna, Baptistery of the Ariuns—Peter and Paul both show up at the head of circling procession of apostles, each identified by name. In the earlier mosaic, both apostles approach one another holding their crown of martyrdom. In the later, Arian, baptisLery however, Peter and Paul face each other across an empty throne surmounted by a jeweled cross, Peter to the left of the throne, holding the keys, and Paul to the right, holding a scroll (fig. 49, p. J 24).

Mary, the Mother of Jlsus

Prior to the Council of Ephesus in 431, which officially declared Mary to be the Mother of God (Th&otokus), little evidence exists to suggest that the Madonna had a specific iconographic tradition or standard portrait type. Given her centrality to the art of both East and West in subsequent centuries, it may be surprising to discover Lhat Mary did not play a prominent role in early Christian art Several mother and child images from the catacombs have been identified as Mary with Jesus, but lacking any clear evidence, they are more likely portraits of a deceased mother holding her child (compare fig. 31, p. 49). Similarly, a scene of marriage, sometimes identified as the wedding of Joseph and Mary, almost certainly portrays only a traditional Roman wedding.1 Mary's earliest and most certain appearances in Christian art are in scenes of the adoration of the magi, dating from the late third or early fourth century, in both catacomb painting and relief carving (tig. 98), Other images of a woman seated with a visitor have sometimes been identified as early re presents-

Fig 98. Adoration af the Mag; from a 4th cen. C£. sarcophagus, Mu&eo P o Cr ^tiano, Vatican City (Photo; Author),

Fig. 99 Annunciation, from the Catacomb of Prscilla, Rome (©The International Catacomb Society Ptiotoc EsLelle Brettman).

tions of the annunciation or of the Virgin and child with the prophet Balaam (figs, 99-100),

Shortly after the CounciTs declaration in 431, however* Marian iconography blossomed and incorporated images from both the canonical Gospels and the Apocrypha. Empress Pulcheria dedicated three churches in her honor, one of which was later said to possess an image of the Virgin painted from life by Saint Luke, reportedly sent to her from lerusalem by heT sister-in-law, Eudociar Luke, of course, had provided the fullest picture of Mary in his infancy narrative, and, according to the legend, Luke included this painting (blessed by Mary herself) with the text of his Gospel, which he sent to the "most excellent Theophilus1' (Luke 1:3). The prototype, like the image of the Man dy lion of Abgar, had been reproduced and known under the name of Hodegirria ("she who shows the way11), to which miraculous powers were attributed,12

Christian iconography soon begins to present Mary in narrative sequences, beginning with her youth and marriage to Joseph, continuing through the annunciation, visitation, and birth of Jesus, placing her at the foot of the cross, and—by the sixth century—at the center of the apostles at Pentecost, A late fifth-century ivory Gospel cover in the treasury of the Milan Cathedral portrays the apocryphal stories of

Mary as a girl in the temple and the an n unci at ion to Mary at a Spring, as well as scenes from the birth and childhood of Jesus/1 Around the same time, the nativity and the flight into Egypt also began to appear with some frequency in Christian art. Perhaps the earliest and most monumental program of Marian narrative imagery were the mosaics in the apse and on the triumphal arch of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, often dated as early as 432 c.e, and dedicated by Pope Sixtus IN (432-440). These mosaics must have been already underway some time prior to Lhe Council of Ephesus's affirmation of Mary's status. The original apse mosaic of the church portrayed the enthroned Madonna with the child on her lap, aniong a group of saints presenting their crowns. (The present apse mosaic, showing the coronation of the Virgin, dates from the thirteenth century.) The three registers of the triumphal arch in front of the apse depict scenes of Jesus advent, birth, and infancy, in which Mary appears, perhaps along with her prototype or precursor, Sarah.*

The now-lost apse image of Mary enthroned with the child on her lap was undoubtedly widely copied, and its parallel appeared in later works as reconstructed nave mosaics of the Basilica of San Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna. Set here after the Teconsecration of that formerly Arian basilica, the Virgin is shown seated on the red cushion of a high-backed jeweled throne, her feet upon a similarly jeweled footstool She wears a dark bluish-purple hooded tunic (maphorion) with gold bands, and her head covering is adorned with a single white star over her brow. Her

Fig, 101. Madonna and child, 6th century c.F mosaic, San Apo linare Nuovo, Flawenna (Phcrtjot Author).

child wears a white tunic and pallium with similar gold hands. The mother has a simple halo, while the son's is cruciform. Both mother and child make the sign of blessing with their right hand. To the right and left stand archangels with green haloes that match the green ground on which they stand (fig. 101}. A similar composition can be seen on a sixth-century Coptic tapestry now in the Cleveland Museum, in which Mary sits upon a very similar high-backed and jeweled throne, her feet upon a large jeweled footstool. Her mantle and veil are the same dark bluish-purple. In this artwork, however, the mother has a gulden halo, while the child has none. Her hand is on his right shoulder and he holds a scroll in his right hand (fig. 102). Her name and the names of the archangels, Michael and Gabriel, are woven into the border above her, which creates an upper panel that shows a smaller figure of the enthroned (and nimbed) Christ within a blue orb, held by two angels, Surrounding both scenes is a floral border that contains medallion portraits of the twelve apostles, also identified by name."

The transition from narrative image to icon is clear here, and one of the traditional modes of presenting the Mother of Christ is established in these compositions. A sixth-century ivory diptych from Constantinople also shows Mary with the child on her lap, flanked by the I wo archangels, and a seventh-century encaustic icon from Saint Catherine's monastery in Sinai portrays Mary and her child between the saints Theodore and George, while the archangels stand behind the group of four. As in the other images, the central figures all face forward, and, except for Mary whose eyes look to her left, all gaze out at the viewer. The two angels, by contrast, are gazing upwards as if at God (whose hand descends into the composition). As before, Mary is garbed in a dark purple nuiphorioiL This icon is one of the three important early pre-iconoclasni panel icons at Sinai, along with the famous icon of Christ the Teacher (fig, 59, p+138), and one of Saint Peter*

Fig. 102. Icon d" the Virgin, ^gypt. Byzantine period 6th century CE, sirt and dove tailed-tapestry wearve, wool, 178 x I 10 cm. (©The Cleveland Museurm of Art. 2Q03. Leonand C, Hanna ]r Bequest, 1967.144).

The early image of the Virgin enthroned became, in time, only one of the traditional presentations of Mary in art. Sometimes she is shown cheek-to-cheek with her child expressing compassion and tenderness; sometimes she is shown standing, with her child in her arms or in the orans position with a, medallion containing the child over her breast or womb, indicating the incarnation. Although Mary almost never appears without the child in portrait icons, she (of course) does in thi," narrative icons (showing the annunciation, the crucifixion, the ascension, and her dormition), She almost always wears the dark bluish-purple robe that appears in the earliest images, usually with a star over her forehead and one on each shoulder.

Her centrality in post-fourth -century art, of course, has much to do with the defense of art in general, since the incarnation of God in visible human form formed the essential argument in defense of Christian devotional images. The declaration that she he properly called "Mother of God" was a key part of the Orthodox christological position (proclaimed by the Council of Kphesus in 431 c.e,) ratified by the Council of Ch a Ice don in 45 L For these reasons, her image is key to the theology of images in the Eastern church. The traditional liturgical hymn (kontakion) in the Orthodox church for the Sunday thai celebrates the restoration of the icons alter iconoclasm (the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy) is addressed to Mary, Mother of God, and asserts the association between the icon and orthodox Chi istology; "The indefinable word of the Father made himself definable, having taken flesh of theeT O Mother of God, and having refashioned the soiled image to its former estate, has suffused it with divine beauty. But confessing salvation, we show it forth in deed and word."fl? The invisible God became visible by means of the flesh of this woman, and so her visible image is as essential as Christ's.

Fig. 102. Icon d" the Virgin, ^gypt. Byzantine period 6th century CE, sirt and dove tailed-tapestry wearve, wool, 178 x I 10 cm. (©The Cleveland Museurm of Art. 2Q03. Leonand C, Hanna ]r Bequest, 1967.144).

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