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Viewing Greece:

Cultural and Political Agency in the Medieval and

Early Modern Mediterranean
S tudies in the V isual C ultures of the M iddle A ges
vol . 11

Series Editor:
K athryn A. S mith, N ew Y ork U niversity

Editorial Board
A dam  S. C ohen, University of Toronto
S haron  E. J. G erstel, University of California, Los Angeles

Viewing Greece:
Cultural and Political
Agency in the Medieval
and Early Modern

Edited by
Sharon E. J. Gerstel

© 2016 Brepols Publishers n.v., Turnhout, Belgium

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any
means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.


ISBN 978-2-503-56643-6

Production, Printing and Binding: GRAFIKON, Oostkamp, Belgium

Printed in the E.U. on acid-free paper

Acknowledgements 3

Sharon E. J. Gerstel 5

I. Viewing the Sacred

Poetry and Painting in the Middle Byzantine Period:

A Bilateral Icon from Kastoria and the Stavrotheotokia of Joseph the Hymnographer
Fr. Maximos Constas 13

Reflections on the Medium of the Miraculous

Annemarie Weyl Carr 33

Heaven on Earth: Neoplatonism in the Churches of Greece

Henry Maguire 53

II. Viewing Workshops

A New Look at an Early Christian Mosaic Pavement from Thebes

Eugenia Gerousi-Bendermacher 69

Between Heaven and Earth:

Views of Byzantine Thessaloniki
Anastassios C. Antonaras and Sharon E. J. Gerstel 85

III. Viewing Painting

“The Joy of the Most Holy Mother of God the Hodegetria the One in Constantinople”:
Revisiting the Famous Representation at the Blacherna Monastery, Arta
Maria G. Parani 113

Approaching Monemvasia and Mystras from the Outside:

The View from Kastania
Michalis Kappas 147

IV. Viewing Islands

Between the Garden and the Island:

Mirror Images and Imaginative Geographies of Greece in Thomaso Porcacchi’s
L’isole più famose del mondo, 1572
Veronica della Dora 185

The Venetian Loggia: Representation, Exchange, and Identity in
Venice’s Colonial Empire
Patricia Fortini Brown 207

From Crusade to Colossus:

Rhodes in the Early Modern European Visual Imagination
Sean Roberts 235

V. Viewing Exhibitions

Notes on the Presentation of Heaven and Earth:

Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections at the National Gallery of Art
Susan MacMillan Arensberg 261

Heaven and Earth at the Getty Villa

Mary Louise Hart 279

Curating Exhibitions of Byzantium and Lessons to be Learned

Robin Cormack 293

Bibliography 305

Index 351

The Authors 361

The papers in this volume derive from a symposium co-sponsored by the J. Paul Getty Museum and
the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at UCLA. We thank the Ahmanson Foundation
for its generous support of the UCLA portion of the symposium. The authors extend their gratitude
to the staff members who helped organise the symposium at both institutions: Karen Burgess, Brett
Landenburger, Benay Furtivo, and Lisa Guzzetta. Special thanks must also be given to the community
of St Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles, which extended extraordinary hospitality to the symposium
speakers and participants. At St Sophia, we thank the Very Reverend John S. Bakas, who warmly
welcomed the speakers, and John Kopatsis, who created a beautiful symposium space. We thank
Patricia Chong, and the creative team from Dolce & Gabbana, who exhibited Byzantine-inspired
dresses from their Fall 2013 collection throughout the duration of the symposium. We thank Massimo
Ciavallelo, Director of CMRS, for supporting the symposium and a Master Class on the exhibition’s
curation at UCLA. Elisabeth Fotiadou, former Consul General for Greece in Los Angeles, generously
assisted in supporting the Master Class at UCLA and the symposium at the Getty Villa and St Sophia
The authors thank the editorial board members of Studies in the Visual Cultures of the Middle
Ages and the external reviewer, who gave critical feedback about the volume’s organization. At UCLA,
Marine Aykazyan, Lakshika Senarath Gamage, and Laura Horan provided assistance in editing texts
and obtaining images for this publication. We are very grateful to the Greek organizing committee
of Heaven and Earth for its assistance in obtaining images, and to the Division of Humanities and
the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at UCLA, and The Onassis Foundation, NY, for
providing generous subventions for color reproductions.

Reflections on the Medium of the Miraculous
Annemarie Weyl Carr

This volume had its genesis in the exhibition Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections,
and contributors were invited to anchor their messages in its constituent monuments. Germinal to
the present paper was the gold mosaic icon of the Mother of God Episkepsis from Trigleia, Asia
Minor, now in the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens (Fig. 1).1 The exhibition’s Washington
installation brought out especially beautifully the sprinkling shimmer of the panel’s composite surface,
the variously canted tesserae turning what in other icons might have been a plane into a dynamic
play of shifting glints and sparkles. Fewer than fifty such big mosaic icons survive today, and their
sheer rarity surely contributes to the intensity with which they meet the eye.2 No matter how often
the Athens Virgin does so, it brings a fresh jolt of vitality, of perception in progress. It isn’t that one
is drawn at once to the eyes; it is that you make your way through the delicious welter of glints and
golden flashes until you settle at last on the face, only to discover once you have done so that you
have done exactly what the Christ Child did, too, nestling in through the glitter. The visual energy of
the process is so vivid that it gives life even to the damages, turning the ruddy breaks along the seams
to evocations of blood, recalling the many stories of icons that were wounded and bled.3 The sheer
visual dynamism of the mosaic suddenly makes the exhibition’s painted icons look rather flat and still.
As such, the mosaic icon points to the shift in scholarly attention away from flat painted panels
to the Byzantine fascination with the shifting shimmer of artifacts fashioned in relief from reflective
materials, especially gemstones and precious metal.4 The performative vitality of precious materials
in living illumination — what Bissera Pentcheva has called “shifting the perception of the Byzantine
icon from painting towards sculpture in an extended field”5 — has quite displaced the old language
of concentrated focus and planar flatness that defined panel painted icons. This shift of attention has
produced a degree of impatience with painted panels: in Ivan Drpić’s words, “… the true arts of the
icon in Byzantium were metalworking, enameling, glyptic, weaving, and embroidery, that is, the
arts of icon adornment.”6 It is a sentiment that Late Byzantine patrons themselves may have shared,
given the poem of the immensely rich and aristocratic Theodora Synadene on her father’s funerary
Why do you, the painter, not pour forth much pure gold and fashion beaten images? Why
do you not show clusters of extremely valuable stones assembled thickly on the images,
but paint these images with ordinary colors, portraying this truly golden family as
1 Anastasia Drandaki, Demetra Papanikola-Bakirtzi, 3 Maria Vassilaki, “Bleeding Icons,” in Icon and Word:
and Anastasia Tourta, eds, Heaven and Earth: Art of The Power of Images in Byzantium.  Studies presented
Byzantium from Greek Collections (Athens: Hellenic to Robin Cormack, ed. Antony Eastmond and Liz James
Ministry of Culture and Sports and The Benaki Museum, (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), 121‒33.
2013), 135‒36, no.  55, entry by Kalliope-Phaedra 4 See in particular Bissera V. Pentcheva, The Sensual

Kalafati, with earlier bibliography, especially Myrtali Icon.  Space, Ritual, and the Senses in Byzantium
Acheimastou-Potamainou, Icons of the Byzantine (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press,
Museum of Athens (Athens: Museum of Christian and 2010), and Pentcheva, “The Performative Icon,” AB
Byzantine Art, 1988), 34‒35, no.  7; Otto Demus, Die 88 (2006): 631‒56.
byzantinischen Mosaikikonen, I, Die grossformatigen 5 Pentcheva, “Moving Eyes: Surface and Shadow in the

Ikonen, Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Byzantine Mixed-Media Icon,” Res: Anthropology and
Philosophisch-historische Klasse, Denkschriften, 224 Aesthetics 55‒56 (2009): 223‒34, at 233.
(Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der 6 Ivan Drpić, “Kosmos in Epigrams,” typescript. I  am

Wissenschaften, 1991), 15‒18, no. 1, pl. 1. very much indebted to Dr  Drpić for letting me read this
2 Demus, Die byzantinischen Mosaikikonen, 9. compelling and beautiful text.

Annemarie Weyl Carr

Fig. 1. Mother of God Episkepsis, late thirteenth century. Athens, Byzantine and Christian Museum, BXM 990
(photo: Greek Ministry of Sports and Culture)


Reflections on the Medium of the Miraculous

something common? Are you perhaps teaching the spectator about vanity, by sprinkling
with a little gold the plain wood…?7
“Sprinkling with a little gold the plain wood” is a rather parsimonious assessment of painted panels.
Even in the most humble little village churches, icons usually did have gold. Their gold, too,
responded to the shifting lights and shadows of living illumination, producing varied impressions,
so the icons emerged now as strongly colored faces, but at other times as no more than shadows,
haunting humanoid silhouettes.8 Not just the light, but also the panels themselves were mobile. In
many churches the icon of the dominant patron saint was mounted on a pole, which enabled it either
to be clipped into the iconostasis or separate throne, or taken out in procession. The powerful bilateral
icon from Kastoria had a pole.9 Thus panels, too, responded to light and movement, were participative
members of ceremonial events, and engaged in the giving and receiving of gifts. They shared in
the mobility, spatiality, and restless performative interactivity that constitute such an important
theme of current inquiry. Were they, nonetheless, as Theodora Synadene implied, no more than the
inexpensive under-face of an imperial art? Or did the panel painting have a distinctive language of
materiality, with distinctive capabilities of its own? After all, Theodora of all people could have
afforded jewels and gold had they been a more effective medium for portraiture. This interests me
because of the kind of icons with which I’ve been engaged, which are miracle-working icons. Two
facts would seem to favor precious metal as the prime medium for miracle-workers: on the one hand
the avid assertions that the precious materials animated the images, making them enspirited and
alive; and on the other the prevalence of miracles of transformation, in which icons weep, bleed,
cry out or otherwise actually act enspirited and alive.10 Yet all the great miracle-working icons of
Byzantium whose physical characteristics we know for sure were panel paintings.11 With animation
so strongly emphasized, how did mere panels find a place within the charged domain of high-value,
high reflectivity image-dynamism?
The aesthetic importance of precious materials has been learned to a significant degree from
literary descriptions, especially poetic epigrams composed to complement works of art.12 Images

7 Sarah T. Brooks, “Poetry and Female Patronage in Late Ashgate, 2011), 263‒77, at 270.
Byzantine Tomb Decoration: Two Epigrams by Manuel 12 Epigrams have an extensive recent bibliography. See
Philes,” DOP 60 (2006): 230. especially Marc D. Lauxtermann, “The Byzantine Epigram
8 See especially Robert S. Nelson, “Where God Walked in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries. A Generic Study of
and Monks Pray,” in Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons Epigrams and Some Other Forms of Poetry,” 2 vols (PhD
from Sinai, ed. Robert S. Nelson and Kristin M. Collins diss., University of Amsterdam, 1994), with bibliography
(Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2006), 16‒33. of published anthologies; Henry Maguire, Image and
9 Drandaki, Papanikola-Bakirtzi and Tourta, Heaven Imagination: The Byzantine Epigram as Evidence for
and Earth, 131‒32, no. 52, entry by Angeliki Strati, with Viewer Response (Toronto: Canadian Institute of Balkan
earlier bibliography. Studies, 1996); Wolfram Hörandner and Andreas Rhoby,
10 On miracles of transformation, see Megan Holmes, eds, Die Kulturhistorische Bedeutung byzantinischer
The Miraculous Image in Renaissance Florence (New Epigramme, Akten des internationalen Workshop, Wien,
Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 166‒71, and Holmes, 1.-2. Dezember 2006 (Vienna: Österreichische Akademie
“Miraculous Images in Renaissance Florence,” Art History der Wissenschaften, 2008); Andreas Rhoby, Byzantinische
34 (2011): 432‒65, at 447‒48. Epigramme auf Fresken und Mosaiken. Österreichische
11 An exception might be the “Mother of God Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophische-historische
Cheimeute,”or “enamel Mother of God,” on which see Klasse, Denkschriften, 374 (Vienna: Österreichische
Pentcheva, The Sensual Icon, 108, 116‒20. Pentcheva Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2009); Rhoby,
has also proposed that the Maria Romaia icon should Byzantinische Epigramme auf Ikonen und Objekten der
be understood from its descriptions to have been Kleinkunst, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften,
made of precious metal: see Pentcheva, “Miraculous Philosophische-historische Klasse, Denkschrifte, 408
Icons: Medium, Imagination, and Presence,” in The Cult (Vienna: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften,
of the Mother of God in Byzantium. Texts and Images, ed. 2011); and Ivan Drpić, “Kosmos of Verse: Epigram, Art,
Leslie Brubaker and Mary B. Cunningham, Birmingham and Devotion in Later Byzantium” (PhD diss., Harvard
Byzantine and Ottoman Studies (Farnham, Surrey: University, 2011).

Annemarie Weyl Carr

warranting epigrams tended to be of conspicuous opulence. Only rarely do these objects survive,
but the epigrams were anthologized, and they still dazzle, bringing back to life a kind of artistic
production, and with it an aesthetic dynamism, that were visceral and sophisticated. No object in the
exhibition bears a poetic epigram, but the rock-crystal icon of Christ in the Benaki Museum, Athens
(Fig. 2),13 is surely very like the one for which the arch-epigrammatist, Manuel Philes, composed this
poem in around 1300:
Ἀμήχανον μέν ἐστιν εἰς ὕδωρ γράφειν Writing on water is futile,
Πλὴν ἔνθα Χριστὸς, εὐχερὲς καὶ τὸ ξέειν But with Christ present, one can even carve:
Ὕδωρ γὰρ ἦν ὁ λίθος, ἀλλ’ ἐξετράπη For once this stone was water, but it altered,
Τὴν δεσποτικὴν εὐλαβηθεὶς εἰκόνα. Honoring the icon of the Lord.14
Here the poet plays upon the medieval belief in the mysterious, organic origin of rock crystal as
solidified water,15 conferring both wonder and a sense of organic transformation upon the image. He
attributes yet more overt dynamism to an icon of the Archangel Michael, which was made of gilded
silver, comparable, perhaps, to one now in Caorle, Italy (Fig. 3):
Καὶ πνεῦμα καὶ φῶς καὶ πυρὸς μένος φλέγον, And spirit and light and the flaming force of
Ὡς πνεῦμα τὸν νοῦν, ὡς δὲ φῶς τὴν καρδίαν As spirit my mind, as light my refreshed heart
Ἀναψύχον φώτιζε καὶ ῥύθμιζέ με, Illuminate and set in order,
Καὶ τῶν παθῶν μου τὴν κακὴν ὕλην φλέγε. And burn the evil matter of my passions.
Τὴν πίστιν ἀθρεῖς, τὸν χρυσάργυρον βλέπεις You see the pure faith, the gilded silver:
Τί λείπεται γοῦν εἰς τιμὴν τῆς εἰκόνος; What in value does the icon lack?
Ὁμώνυμός σοι τὴν τιμὴν πρωτοστράτωρ Homonymous with you in title, Protostrator,
Δουκᾶς ὁ Γλαβᾶς ἐκ ψυχῆς τάδε γράφει. Doukas Glavas paints [you] in spirit.16
The staccato flash of light-words in the poem’s opening lines captures the flashing radiance of the
icon’s silver relief, while its sterling value is paralleled with the owner’s pure faith. So restless is the
silver’s glinting glitter than the archangel himself assumes form only at the end of the poem, when he
is conjured in the donor’s spirit, not his eye. In both of these epigrams, the medium takes center stage,
and in both, it has agency, flashing or solidifying. Thus it animates the image, lending it life and even
spirit. It isn’t the sacredness of the image that animates the material so much as it is the volatility of
the material that animates the image. With animation so explicitly bound to precious materials, how
was the less volatile stuff of painted wood regarded by the poets?
The poets had an obligation to the conspicuously costly materials of the images they extolled,
and were also clearly sensitive to the impact of these very special media upon the images they bore.
Thus when precious, the materials play a central role in their poems. By contrast, no poem speaks
explicitly of paint or panel, and it is difficult to know for certain whether a poem like this one by
Philes is addressed to a painted panel. It speaks to Christ:
Εἰκὼν ἐγὼ σὴ, πλὴν συνετρίβη, Λόγε· I am the icon of you, though shattered, Logos;
Εἰκὼν ἐμὴ σὺ, πλὴν Θεὸς πάλιν μένεις. You are the icon of me, though you remain
wholly God.

13 Drandaki, Papanikola-Bakirtzi and Tourta, Heaven and byzantinischer Epigramme, 85‒86, discussing several
Earth, 270‒71, entry by Vicky Foskolou. such epigrams by Philes on the transformative power of
14 Emmanuel Miller, Manuelis Philai Carmina, 2 vols the material of the image about which he writes.
(Paris: In Typographeo Imperiali, 1855), 38, no. LXXXVII: 15 Avinoam Shalem, “Fountains of Light: The Meaning

Εἰς τὸν αὐτόν (i.e., Εἰς λίθον κρύον, ἐν ᾧ ἦν γεγλυμμένη of Medieval Islamic Rock Crystal Lamps,” Muqarnas
ἡ δεσποτικὴ εἰκών). See also Efthymia Pietsch-Braounou, 11 (1994): 1‒11, at 3.
“Manuel Philes und die übernatürliche Macht der 16 Miller, Manuelis Philai Carmina, 36, no. LXXXII: Εἰς

Epigrammdichtung,” in Die Kulturhistorische Bedeutung ἑτέραν εἰκόνα τοῦ ἀρχιστρατήγου.


Reflections on the Medium of the Miraculous

Fig. 2. Pendant with Christ Pantokrator, eleventh-twelfth Fig. 3. Archangel Michael, Pala d’altare, Caorle, Duomo
century with sixteenth-century mount. Athens, Benaki (photo: S. Anelli)
Museum, inv. no. 2113 (photo: Greek Ministry of Sports
and Culture)

Καλλιγραφεῖς δὲ τὴν ἐμὴν φύσιν May you calligraph my nature,

Κιρνῶν σεαυτὸν συμπαθῶς τῷ σαρκίῳ. Mingling sympathetically with the bodily.17
The poem’s crucial word is kalligraphein. It evokes, for a God who is the Word, the monastic work of
calligraphy, perfecting the self through the disciplined perfection of the word of God.18 Philes asks the
incarnate God to redraft his human nature in fair copy, perfecting the image by infusing materiality
with the divine. But kalligraphein is important, too, because of its root, graphein, to write. Graphein
is the verb regularly used in the poems for the act of representing. Recurrently, we translate it as
painting. But it specifies no medium,19 and though Philes’ poem is an artful play upon materiality, it
casts no light on the actual material of the image. The same is true of many poems. My sense is that
absence of medium may in the end be the best indication that a poem did treat a panel. Equally absent
in such pieces are words evoking light or shimmer. To the extent that light-terminology appears in
them, it does so largely through its opposite, shadow, as in this well-known epigram:
Σκιὰν σκιᾶς ἔγραψας, ὦ χεὶρ ζωγράφου. O hand of the painter, you’ve painted a shadow
of a shadow
Σκιὰ γὰρ ἦν τὸ σῶμα τοῦ Χρυσοστόμου, For the body of Chrysostom was a shadow,
Λεπτυνθὲν ὠς ἄσαρκον ἐξ ἀσιτίας· Thinned as if to insubstantiality by fasting:

17 Ibid., 96, no. CXCV:  Ὅμοιοι (i.e., Εἰς εἰκόνα Triodion, trans. Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos
δεσποτικήν). The content echoes the words from the liturgy Ware (London: Faber and Faber, 1978), 128.
of the Saturday of the Dead: “Of old Thou hast created me 18 The formulation is based on Jean Leclercq, O.S.B., The

from nothing and honoured me with Thy image; but when Love of Learning and the Desire for God, trans. Catharine
I disobeyed Thy commandment, Thou hast returned me Misrahi (New York: Fordham University Press, 1982).
to earth whence I was taken: lead me back again to Thy 19 As emphasized by Pentcheva, “Miraculous Icons,” 271.

likeness, refashioning my ancient beauty”: see The Lenten

Annemarie Weyl Carr

Καἰ Θαῦμα τοῦτο πῶς σκιὰν σκιᾶς γράφεις. And it is a wonder how you paint a shadow of a
An epigram like this one would seem a perfect response to the behavior of panels in half-light, for
as noted, the shifting play of light could throw the painted figures into wraith-like silhouette. In fact,
however, the shadow metaphor is specific to skinny saints, in this case John Chrysostom, whose
famously ascetic physique appears in the central figure of the icon with the Three Hierarchs from
the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens, once again included in the exhibition (Fig. 4).21
Moreover, shadow is not necessarily about immateriality, as seen in a variation of the Chrysostom
poem, recomposed for a yet more transcendent ascetic, Mary of Egypt:
Σκιὰν σκιᾶς ἔγραψας, ὦ χεὶρ ζωγράφου. O Painter, your hand has painted the shadow of
a shadow,
Σκιὰ γὰρ ἦν τὸ σῶμα τῆς Αἰγυπτίας For the body of the Egyptian woman was a
Ἢ μᾶλλον ὡς ἂν ἀκριβώσω τὸν λόγον, Or rather, to put it precisely,
Ἀπὸ σκιᾶς ἔγραψας ὑλικὸν πάθος. From a shadow you have painted material
Here, shadow concretizes physicality. To make shadows, then, is more than just to suspend physical
matter. A clever little quatrain illuminates this. It was composed for an icon of St Luke, presumably a
panel; whether it showed St Luke painting is hard to assert, since our earliest example postdates the
quatrain by a century.23 But Luke the painter is its theme:
Γράφει σε, Λουκᾶ, τεχνικῶς ὁ ζωγράφος The painter has painted you artfully, Luke:
Μήπως κακίστῃς τὴν γραφὴν ὡς τεχνίτης. As an expert, will you critique his work?
Λέγουσι γὰρ εἶναί σε καὶ σκιαγράφον For they say you are also a painter,
Τὸν χρωματουργὸν τῶν ἀποῤῥήτων λόγων. Who gave color to the mystical words.24
Interesting here is the poet’s choice of words. Luke is first called a skiagraphos, painter, indeed, but
strictly a draughtsman who draws the shape, or literally “a maker of shadows.”25 But then in the
next breath, he becomes something else: a chromatourgos, an impresario of color, literally, of skin
color.26 Luke’s legendary identification as a painter arose from his being the Evangelist who most
fully recounted the humanity of Christ. The quatrain gives him the same role here: he enfleshes the

20 Miller, Manuelis Philai Carmina, 33, no. LXXI: Ἔτεροι Ηπειρωτική Ελλάδα (16ος‒18ος αιώνας),” Δελτ.Χριστ.
(i.e., Εἰς εἰκόνα τοῦ μεγάλου Χρυσοστόμου). Translation Ἀρχ.Ἑτ. 33 (2012): 405, English summary as “The
by Henry Maguire, The Icons of Their Bodies. Saints Evangelist Luke as Painter of the Icon of the Virgin in
and Their Images in Byzantium (Princeton: Princeton Mainland Greece (16th‒18th Century),” 418.
University Press, 1996), 78. 24 Miller, Manuelis Philai Carmina, 18, no. ΧΧΙΧ:  Εἰς

21 Drandaki, Papanikola-Bakirtzi and Tourta, Heaven and εἰκόνα τοῦ ἁγίου ἀποστόλου και εὐαγγελιστοῦ Λουκᾶ.
Earth, 141, no. 61, entry by Kalliope-Phaedra Kalafati, 25 On skiagraphein, see Liz James, Light and Colour

with earlier bibliography, especially Acheimastou- in Byzantine Art, Clarendon Studies in the History of
Potamianou, Icons of the Byzantine Museum, 40‒43, no. 9. Art (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 129: “The type
22 Miller, Manuelis Philai Carmina, 36, no. LXXX:  Εἰς (skiá) equals the preliminary sketch (skiagraphía) which
τὴν ὁσίαν Μαρίαν τὴν Αἰγυπτίαν.  Again translated by foreshadowed reality (alétheia): that painting was thought
Henry Maguire, The Icons of their Bodies, 74. to be completed by the addition of colours is strongly
23 On the images of Luke painting the Virgin, see Ioannis implied in patristic literature by the use of verbs such as
Spatharakis, The Left-Handed Evangelist: A Contribution skiagraphéo, and the opposition of eikón to skiagraphía.”
to Palaeologan Iconography (London: The Pindar Press, 26 A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-

1988), 3‒5. The earliest icon with this theme is the early English Lexicon (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
fifteenth-century panel now in the Icon Museum in 1972), 792, s.v. χρῶμα: “II. the colour of the skin, the
Recklinghausen: see Nano Chatzidakis, “Ο Ευαγγελιστής complexion.”
Λουκάς ως ζωγράφος της εικόνας της Παναγίας στην


Reflections on the Medium of the Miraculous

Fig. 4. Three Hierarchs, bilateral icon, first half of the fourteenth century. Athens, Byzantine and Christian Museum, BXM
992 (photo: Greek Ministry of Sports and Culture)

Annemarie Weyl Carr

mystical words. He does so with color, filling the shadow with human substance. Color defines him
as a painter. It is his medium.
Only color, of course, isn’t a medium.27 It is a quality of vision. It needs a material substance in
which to exist. How that materiality works is hard to pin down. Manuel Philes is downright diffident
about it, as in this epigram addressed again to Chrysostom:
Ἂν ἐξ ὕλης γράφωσι καὶ τοὺς ἀγγέλους, If even the angels are painted with matter,
Τί καινὸν εἰ γράφουσι καὶ σὲ ταῖς ὕλαις· What is novel if you, too, are painted with
Εἰ δ’ οὐχὶ καὶ πτέρυγας ἀγγέλου φέρεις, But if you don’t also have the wings of an angel,
Μάλιστα νικᾷς ἐξ ὕλης τοὺς ἀγγέλους. You surely triumph over the angels of matter.28
Chrysostom, in short, is so weightless that he can dispense with the wings that the angels need to
defy gravity. He outdoes them in insubstantiality. Philes may be registering here the convention often
seen in Byzantine art, in which angels, as heavenly beings, were given more succulent substantiality
than earthly ones. One sees this well in comparing the exhibition’s succulent Archangel Gabriel from
Vatopedi with the Chrysostom from the icon of the Three Hierarchs (Fig. 5).29 It is the angels who are
material. But their materiality diminishes them. The stuff they are represented with — physical paint
— does not excite Philes’ imagination as precious substances do, and he is fairly dismissive of it.
A more nuanced view of the painter’s medium is offered by a number of earlier poets, including
the eleventh-century John Mavropous. Mavropous’ poem on an icon of the Archangel Michael is
strong enough that we might align it with the great icon of Michael from the Byzantine and Christian
Museum in Athens that climaxes the exhibition (Fig. 6):30
Φῶς, πνεῦμα και πῦρ οἴδαμεν τοὺς ἀγγέλους, We know that angels are light, spirit and fire,
Παντὸς πάχους τε και πάθους ὑπερτέρους. Higher than all matter and every passion.
ἀλλ’ ὁ στρατηγὸς τῶν ἀνΰλων ταγμάτων But the general of the immaterial hosts
ἔστηκε γραπτὸς ὑλικῶν ἐκ χρωμάτων. Stands [here] painted with material colors.
ὦ πίστις, οἷα θαυματουργεῖν ἰσχύεις· O faith! What wonders you have power to work!
ὡς ῥᾷστα μορφοῖς τὴν ἀμόρφωτον φύσιν How easily you give form to the nature that is
πλὴν ἡ γραφὴ δείκνυσι τὸν γεγραμμένον Only the painting shows the one that is painted
οὐχ ὡς πέφυκεν, ὡς δ’ ἔδοξε πολλάκις. Not as he is by nature, but as he often seemed to
The poem begins with the same light-words that had flashed through the opening line of Philes’ poem
on Michael — light, spirit, fire. But they do not flash here; rather than occurring, they are simply
known to the poet. Known, too, is the fact of the archangel’s immateriality. Angels in Byzantium were
called asomatoi, bodiless ones; they were truly insubstantial. And yet — and it is here that the flash
comes — the “general of the immaterial hosts stands here, painted with material colors.” “Material
colors” are easily read simply as paint, but the phrase is more complex. Its key word once again is
color. Color has been a volatile concept in discussions of Byzantine art.32 Byzantine lexica defined
27 As stated by Pentcheva, “Miraculous Icons,” 269. Acheimastou-Potamianou, Icons of the Byzantine Museum,
28  Miller, Manuelis Philai Carmina, 33, no. LXX: Ἕτεροι 36‒39, no. 8.
(i.e., Εἰς εἰκόνα τοῦ μεγάλου Χρυσοστόμου). 31 Johannes Bolling and Paulus de Lagarde, Iohannis

29 Drandaki, Papanikola-Bakirtzi and Tourta, Heaven and Euchaitorium Metropolitae quae in Codice Vaticano graeco
Earth, 138‒39, no. 58, entry by Ioannes Tavlakis. On this 676 supersunt (Göttingen: In Aedibus Dieterichianis,
convention, see Maguire, The Icons of their Bodies, 48‒99, 1882), 11‒12, no.  24:  Εἰς τὸν ἀρχάγγελον Μιχαήλ.
esp. 70 on angels. Translated by Maguire, The Icons of Their Bodies, 70.
30 Drandaki, Papanikola-Bakirtzi and Tourta, Heaven 32 See especially James, Light and Colour; Pentcheva,

and Earth, 139‒40, no.  59, entry by Kalliope- “Miraculous Icons,” 269‒70; Pentcheva, The Sensual
Phaedra Kalafati, with earlier bibliography, especially Icon, 109‒15.


Reflections on the Medium of the Miraculous

color as that quality of the exterior surface of

things that makes them visible.33 It is thus a
material property. But it is not substantial. It is
the visually perceptible skin of substance. Color
relies on light to be visible, and in Byzantine
texts may be described in terms that today are
associated with light, such as brightness, sheen,
pallor, or dullness, depending on the material
at issue. Thus color is not equivalent to hue,
and as Liz James has emphasized, the hues
in Byzantine representations are repeatedly
buffed, shaded, streaked, or flashed with white
to heighten their luminosity.34 Thus color and
radiance often converge. But their qualities are
different. Where light animates, color clarifies,
making explicit the continuity from contour to
contour of a form. In the words of our now-
familiar Chrysostom,
…who the emperor is, and who
the enemy, you do not know
exactly until the true colours have
been applied, making the image
clear and distinct…for as long as
somebody traces the outline in a
drawing, there remains a sort of
shadow; but when he paints over it
and lays on colours then an image
Material color, in turn, is the stuff that
transcribes the visual surface of what is seen.
Often enough it is paint, but what is critical is
what the paint does. It does not transcribe the
substance; rather, it transcribes the persuasive
visual skin of substance. Where light breaks the
surface of this skin, setting it in motion, color

33 Pentcheva, “Miraculous Icons,” 269, quoting the Suida:

“Now, it is not thus that he says that surface is visible by
itself, but only insofar as it contains in itself the cause of
being visible. And this is colour, for the colour existing on
the surface is what is visible, and sight perceives it.”
34 James, Light and Colour, esp. 99‒100.

35 Quoted by ibid., 128, though she translates “and lays on

Fig. 5. Archangel Gabriel, early fourteenth century. colours” as “lays on brilliant tints,” a somewhat heightened
Mount Athos, Vatopedi Monastery (compare with the reading of ποῖος δέ ἐστιν ὁ βασιλεὺς, καὶ ποῖος ὁ πολέμιος,
central saint in Fig. 3) (photo: Greek Ministry of Sports οὐ σφόδρα ἀκριβῶς οἶδας ἕως ἂν ἐλθοῦσα τῶν χρωμάτων
and Culture) ἡ ἀλήθεια τρανώσῃ τὴν ὄψιν καὶ σαφεστέραν ποιήσῃ.

Annemarie Weyl Carr

Fig. 6. Archangel Michael, first half of the fourteenth century. Athens, Byzantine and Christian Museum, BXM 1353
(photo: Greek Ministry of Sports and Culture)


Reflections on the Medium of the Miraculous

gives it cohesion. In material colors, the archangel coalesces, not as a physical body, but as a form.36
Much the same use of the term “material color” is found also in the poems of Klement the
Monk, as illustrated in his epigram on an image of St Theodosios the Cenobiarch:
Τῆς πίστεως κάλαμον ἐμβάψας πόθῳ Dipping the pen of faith in yearning
Καὶ καρδίας γράψας σε πλαξὶ σακρίναις And drawing you in the very stuff of my heart
Ψυχῆς, Θεοδόσιε, ταῖς κόραις βλέπω. I gaze on you, Theodosios, with the eyes of the
Ὁρᾶν δὲ, πάτερ, καὶ κατ’ αἴσθησιν θέλων, Seeing you, Father, and wishing to do so also
with the senses
Γράφω τύπον σόν ἐξ ἐνύλων χρωμάτων, I inscribe your image in material colors,
ὧ τύπε καὶ πρώταρχε τοῦ κοινοῦ βίου. O image and founder of the cenobitic life.
Σὺ δ’ ἀλλὰ γράψον ἐν βίβλῳ σεσωσμένων, Do you but inscribe in the book of the saved,
ὅταν ἀνοιχθῇ κρίσεως τὸ βιβλίον, When the book of judgment is opened,
μονότροπον Κλήμεντα, τὸν σὸν οἰκέτην, The unwavering Klement, your servant,
πιστὸν μαθητὴν ἐνθέου διδασκάλου, Faithful student of the divinely inspired teacher
τοῦ πατριάρχου τῆς Σιὼν Ἰωάννου Patriarch John of Jerusalem.37
Here Klement’s inward conception of the saint, inscribed on his heart, is juxtaposed with the sensory
image produced by material means. Its material colors give the image a perceptible surface. Rather
than the volatility, it is the sensory stability of the image that is stressed.
It is revealing in this regard to compare the poems of Philes and Mavropous (see Figs 3, 6).
The terms that they apply to St Michael are much the same, and consistently in terms of light. But
where these terms explode as exclamations in the one, they lie on the background in the other. The
archangel himself never actually appears in Philes’ poem: the flash of his radiance gives way at once
to the supplications of the donor, and it is only at the end, psychologically in the donor’s spirit rather
than visually in his eye, that the archangel’s form takes shape. By contrast, Michael stands out clearly
in Mavropous’ poem, taking form before him. Form, in terms especially of shape and color, is the
prime gift of pigment.
With these reflections on epigrams in mind, we can turn briefly to look at miracle-workers.
During the very centuries in which the urban poets were busy infusing their patrons’ pricey donations
with pious ardor, panel paintings were resonating in their own way with the poets’ heightened
expressivity. One sees this in the expanded variety and emotional intensity of images especially of
Mary, the Mother of God. The anxious Mary of the Kastoria icon belongs to this expressive expansion;
more characteristic were expressive postures of the body: the Child who caresses his mother’s chin,
as seen for perhaps the first surviving time in the powerful late- twelfth-century icon in Athens;38
or the mother who kisses her infant’s hand, as in the Eleousa in the Byzantine Museum, Nicosia;39
or the mother clutching a serpentine Child whose head flops alarmingly backward as if dead, later
associated with Pelagonia.40 Sophisticated in conception, often steeped in evocations of the Passion,
these images must have originated, like the epigrams, in urban centers. But they were disseminated
widely. The type of the icon in Athens, for instance, is seen in reverse in the little Gothic icon in the

36 Thus James, Light and Colour, 127, speaks of the 39 Athanasios Papageorghiou, Icons of Cyprus (Nicosia:

Byzantine “belief in colour as an essential indicator of Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus, 1992), pl. 26.
form.” 40 Gordana Babić, “Il modello e la replica nell’arte

37 Spyridon  P. Lambros, “Ὁ μαρκιανὸς κῶδιξ 524,” ΝE bizantina delle icone,” Arte cristiana 76  (1988): 72‒76;
8 (1911): 184, no. 362: Εἰς εἰκόνα τοῦ ἁγίου Θεοδοσίου Doula Mouriki, “Icons from the 12th to the 15th Century,”
τοῦ κοινοβιάρχου. in Sinai. Treasures of the Monastery, ed. Konstantinos A.
38 Acheimastou-Potamainou, Icons of the Byzantine Manafis (Athens: Ekdotike Athenon, 1990), 102‒23, at
Museum, 20‒23, no. 3. 122‒23, fig. 74.

Annemarie Weyl Carr

exhibition, probably made in Venice, and again in an imposing icon in Veroia in northern Greece.41
The mother who kisses her Child’s hand is seen in Syria and Serbia as well as in Cyprus, where it was
repeated over centuries.42 Kondakov, who first explored the recurrence of Marian types, concluded
that their wide replication must in each case have reflected a great miracle-working original, most
probably in Constantinople, since the capital had both the sophistication to produce, and the power
to purvey, such specially confirmed types.43 The great miracle-working originals have as yet defeated
all efforts to identify them, however, and one wonders if the types’ dissemination mightn’t have
been motivated instead by their emotional appeal. It is true in several cases, however, that an icon
displaying one of these emotionally charged types did acquire regional fame as a miracle-worker,
and that in these cases, the type did assume local popularity, appearing on other icons in the vicinity.
Here, then, replication did reflect a venerated original. A well-known example is the type known as
Pelagonitissa, recurrent in Macedonia;44 in turn the type first seen in the famous icon of the Virgin with
Prophets at Sinai assumed prominence in at least three localities: Cyprus, Southern Italy, and Mount
Athos. In each case, the veneration shown to the type would in time be claimed by an icon bearing a
name, and the name would slowly assume hegemony over the type. Thus we see the Madonna delle
Vittorie in Piazza Armerina, Sicily,45 the Axion Estin at the Protaton on Athos,46 and the Kykkotissa
and its vast progeny on Cyprus.47 We tend to presume that the name that claimed the type belonged
to the icon which first endowed it with special charisma, but this is not necessarily the case.48 The
cults that emerged around the Komnenian types have been valuable in showing the germination of a
miracle-worker’s cult. The paradigm they offer, of an image building a reputation by replication, has
been powerful, and in many ways Kondakov’s theory about the dissemination of types is a projection
onto a broader canvas of the pattern of regional replication that they suggest.
The cults that developed around the Komnenian icon types post-date the major urban cults
of Constantinople, and they were centered outside the major cities with their urban institutions and
rituals. What seem to distinguish them for our purposes are two factors: the variety and complexity of
their image types, and the testimony afforded by their replication. Both of these factors are, I believe,
reliant on the medium of the panels. Thus they invite us to think back to the epigrams’ assessment
of the painted icon. A first factor they suggest is the significance of form over motion. The icons are
identified by particular and quite complicated figure types. Both they and the icons that repeat them

41 For the Gothic icon, see Drandaki, Papanikola-Bakirtzi 47 Constantine N. Constantinides, Ἡ Διήγησις τῆς
and Tourta, Heaven and Earth, 318‒19, no.  167, entry θαυματουργῆς εἰκόνας τῆς Θεοτόκου Ἐλεούσας τοῦ Κύκκου
by Maria Vassilaki. For the icon in the Veroia Byzantine κατὰ τὸν ἑλληνικό κώδικα 2313 τοῦ Βατικανοῦ (Nicosia:
Museum (VBM, E85), see Despoina Evgenidou, ed., Research Centre of the Holy Monastery of Kykkos, 2002),
Veroia Byzantine Museum (Athens: Archaeological 18‒25; Annemarie Weyl Carr, “Reflections on the Life of
Receipts Fund, 2003), fig. 26. an Icon:  The Eleousa of Kykkos.  Στοχασμοί για τη ζωή
42 Babić, “Il modello e la replica,” 69. μίας εικόνας: η Ελεούσα του Κύκκου,” Επετηρίδα Κέντρου
43 Nikodim Pavlovich Kondakov, Икoнoгрaфıя Μελετών Ιεράς Μονής Κύκκου 6 (2004): 103‒62; George A.
Boгoмaтepи, 3  vols (St  Petersburg: Tipografiia Soteriou, “Ἡ Κυκκιώτισσα,” Νέα Ἑστία (Christmas issue,
Imperatorskoi Akademii Nauk’, 1910‒15), vol. 2. 1939): 3‒6.
44 Babić, “Il modello e la replica,” 72‒76. 48 See the lucid argument about the type of the Andria

45 Maria Katja Guida, ed., La Madonna delle Vittorie dal Madonna by Pina Belli d’Elia, “Fra tradizione e
Gran Conte Ruggero al Settecento (Milan: Electa, 2009). rinnovamento. Le icone dall’XI al XIV secolo,” in Icone
46 Euthymios N. Tsigaridas, “Η εικόνα ‘Άξιον Έστιν’ του di Puglia e Basilicata dal medioevo al Settecento, ed. Pina
Πρωτάτου και η Παναγία Η Κυκκώτισσα,” in Η Ιερά Μονή Belli d’Elia (Bari: Mazzotta, 1988), 24‒25; similarly, the
Κύκκου στη βυζαντινή και μεταβυζαντινή αρχαιολογία και nuns of Trikoukia in Cyprus say that Kykkos Monastery
τέχνη, ed. Menelaos N. Christodoulou and Stylianos K. appropriated the type of their palladion, known as the
Perdikes (Nicosia: Museum of the Holy Monastery of Trikoukkiotissa and also venerated in the Lusignan period
Kykkos, 2001), 181‒90; Idem, “L’icone de la Vierge as a rain-maker: see Andreas  M. Mitsides, “Η Μονή
Axion Estin du Protaton et ses copies,” ZRVI 44 (2007): Παναγίας της Τρικουκκιάς,” Κυπριακαί Σπουδαί 64‒65
341‒51. (2000‒2001): 429‒43.


Reflections on the Medium of the Miraculous

rely upon clarity for recognizability.49 Where the images in precious materials may be fractured or
flashed by shifting light and shade — may, indeed, vanish in the brilliance of their presentation, as
did Doukas Glavas’ silver image of the archangel — these images must retain their shape and color:
that is, their form.
A second factor concerns the relation of the replicas to the miracle-worker whose form they
adopt. Characteristically we refer to them by the miracle-worker’s name and assume that they depend
for charismatic appeal upon that model. Such essentially referential repetition of a famous original
became pervasive in the post-Byzantine centuries, when replicas identified with the name of a great
icon proliferated by the hundreds. Already in the Middle Byzantine period we have a few harbingers
of this referentiality, largely centered on the Hodegetria.50 A clear example is the icon encountered
by the twelfth-century pilgrim John Phocas in the monastery of Kalamon in the Holy Land, which he
describes as “… a picture of the Virgin with the Saviour Christ in her arms, being in form, colour, and
size like that of the Hodegetria in the imperial city.”51 It confirmed this close kinship by emanating
miracles and a thrillingly sweet odor. In this case, visual kinship was understood to imply the
replication of a particular, named object. But names are not coincident with replication. Many image
types, like that of the so-called Pelagonitissa, assumed varied names during their early propagation;52
in studying the Mother of God of Kosinitza, Gordana Babić suggested that the name appeared only
on those icons close enough to Kosinitza that the name was meaningful, but not on replicas farther
away;53 the Kykkotissa, first named on sixteenth-century replicas, is referred to in its fifteenth-century
legend simply as “our icon,” suggesting that its name was not yet fixed even at home at this point,
though replicas go back to the fourteenth century.54 Thus while we can for convenience apply a name
to an icon type, we should be far more cautious about applying that name to the physical icon itself.
Rather, we need to explore what the replication itself meant.
Be it in Sicily with the off-spring of the Madonna delle Vittorie, in Cyprus with the icons akin to
the Kykkotissa, or in Macedonia with the Pelagonitissa’s type, the early replicas rarely bear the name
of their model. Most of them are big — they can only have been made for the iconostases of their
churches. And in Cyprus, where I’ve been able to examine them, fully half of them are or were on poles.
Pole icons are the visible representatives of their communities, carried in ceremonies and brought out
to identify them in processions. They express their identification with their communities by assuming

49 The role of recognition might seem to be challenged Nicolas Oikonomides, “The Holy Icon as an Asset,” DOP
by the Kykkotissa, famous for being veiled. Its eighteenth- 45 (1991): 35‒44.
century historian, Ephraim the Athenian, proposed that it 51 John Wilkinson, Jerusalem Pilgrimage, 1099‒1185

had arrived from Constantinople in around 1100 already (London: Hakluyt Society, 1988), 331, ¶24.2‒4. The full
veiled, since he was aware that prominent patrons in quotation speaks of “…a picture of the Virgin with the
the Komnenian court had sponsored icon veils and that Saviour Christ in her arms, being in form, colour, and
Alexios I himself had been healed by the veil of the Christ size like that of the Hodegetria in the imperial city. There
Chalkites: Constantinides, Ἡ Διήγησις, 266‒67, where is an ancient tradition that it was painted by the hand of
Ephraim’s text is reprinted on pp. 241‒80. But as Michele the Apostle and Evangelist St Luke; and what tends to
Bacci observed, veiling is “a practice conceivable only for corroborate this story are the frequent miracles wrought by
an image well-known and well established in the popular the picture, and the thrilling perfume which proceeds from
imagination.” Michele Bacci, Il pennello dell’Evangelista. it.”
Storia delle immagini sacre attribuite a san Luca (Pisa: 52 Babić, “Il modello e la replica,” 72‒76.

GISEM, 1998), 237. 53 Gordana Babić, “Quelques observations concernant

50 See also the mosaic of c. 1140 in the Cappella Palatina l’icône de la Vierge Kosinitza,” in ΛΑΜΠΗΔΩΝ:
in Sicily: Ernst Kitzinger, I Mosaici del Periodo normanno Αφιέρωμα στη μνήμη της Ντούλας Μουρίκη, ed. Maire
in Sicilia, I: La Cappella Palatina di Palermo, I: Mosaici Aspra-Vardavake, 2 vols (Athens, 2003), 1:95‒102, at 100.
del Presbiterio (Palermo: Accademia nazionale di scienze 54 Constantinides, Ἡ Διήγησις, 177‒78: “Ἄρχομαι λέγει(ν)

e lettere e arti di Palermo, 1992), pl. 94. The number of τῆς ἱστορίας τῆς εἰκόνος, ὑμεῖς δὲ, ἀγαπητοὶ ἀδελφοί…”
icons labeled Hodegetria escalated in the thirteenth and On the replicas, see Carr, “Reflections on the Life of an
fourteenth centuries, as exemplified by the cases cited in Icon.”

Annemarie Weyl Carr

Fig. 7. Panagia Theoskepaste, fourteenth century. Fig. 8. Panagia Galaktiste, fourteenth century. Museum
Kalopanagiotis, Holy Monastery of St John Lampadistes of the Holy Monastery of Kykkos (photo: Museum of the
(photo: author) Holy Monastery of Kykkos)

the nicknames of their churches — in the case of the early replicas of the type of the Kykkotissa, the
Theoskepaste or Virgin veiled by God (Fig. 7),55 the Galaktiste (Fig. 8),56 Athanasiotissa (Fig. 9),57
Kardiovastousa.58 Thus my sense is that these are icons designed to work like their originals — that is,
to be prominent icons. While they do, for this purpose, adopt the image of a miracle-worker — and so
are in this sense icons of a great icon — what a great icon is, is a great image. The icons that adopt it
don’t invoke a concrete bond to the model as the icon at Kalamon did; they adopt a great image, and
that image settles into and gives energy to the material and place that it occupies. Eventually, one of

55 Lefki Michaelidou, ed., Ἱερὰ Μητρόπολις Μόρφου· 2000 58 In this case the nickname is known to be contemporary

Χρόνια Τέχνης καὶ Ἁγιότητος (Nicosia: Holy Bishopric of with the panel, which was made in the sixteenth century
Morphou, 2000), 284‒85, entry by Stylianos K. Perdikes; for the church of the Mother of God Kardiovastousa in
Carr, “Taking Place: The Shrine of the Virgin Veiled by God Kaminaria, see: Lefki Michaelidou and Christodoulos
in Kalopanagiotis, Cyprus,” in Hierotopy. The Creation Hadjichristodoulou, eds, Η Μόρφου ως Θεομόρφου·
of Sacred Spaces in Byzantium and Medieval Russia, ed. Του χθες, του σήμερα, και του αύριο (Nicosia: Cultural
Alexei Lidov (Moscow: Indrik, 2006), 388‒408. Foundation of the Bank of Cyprus, 2011), 58‒59, entry
56 Ἱερὰ Μητρόπολις Μόρφου, 282‒83, entry by by Christodoulos Hadjichristodoulou. By this time, there
Stylianos K. Perdikes. The nickname is not inscribed on were icons of its type bearing the name of the Kykkotissa,
the panel. but the type could clearly still assume a distinct identity.
57 Ἱερὰ Μητρόπολις Μόρφου, 139, fig. 24; Papageorghiou, The other icons probably acquired their nicknames only
Icons of Cyprus, 73, 79, pl. 49. The name “Athanasiotissa” over time, but this only reinforces the power of their
accompanies sixteenth-century overpainting; when it was commitment to the Kykkotissa’s image rather than its
first associated with the icon is not known. object. The type never lost this power.


Reflections on the Medium of the Miraculous

Fig. 9. Mother of God Athanasiotissa, fourteenth century with areas of sixteenth-century overpainting. Nicosia, Byzantine
Museum of the Archbishop Makarios III Foundation (photo: Byzantine Museum of the Archbishop Makarios III

Annemarie Weyl Carr

them could itself assume a charismatic identity — as the beautiful icon of the Panagia Theoskepaste
on Cyprus clearly did.59 The replicas don’t take on the identity of the miracle-worker; they draw upon
its image to lend particular power their own panels and their own places, as avenues to the Mother of
God. It is in essence the visible skin of substance that is transmitted and it confers life and spirit upon
its new location. The image animates the substance. Thus in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries,
while metropolitan poets extolled the emotive power of precious materials, the basic medium of the
miraculous icon was paint.
The miracle cults building on the Middle Byzantine image types obviously evolved only
during the later centuries of the empire. It is far harder to follow the icon’s medium back into the
tenth and eleventh centuries. The painted panel survives in progressively greater numbers from the
Komnenian era onward, and scholars have recurrently postulated a fundamental shift in the imagery
and deployment of the icon in the twelfth century.60 Far fewer panel-painted icons remain from the
tenth and eleventh centuries. Nonetheless, it is dramatically clear that major new icon cults were
incubated under the Macedonian dynasty, as the signature cults of post-Iconoclastic Mariolatry
were forged. This occurred in Constantinople. In this case, however, the visual identity of the icons
themselves — with the sole exception of the Hodegetria — is notoriously difficult to identify and
follow. Thus the process of image-replication that was just traced in the post-Komnenian centuries
for consolidating a miracle-worker’s identity, and that was formative to Kondakov’s construct, seems
not have occurred in the more concentrated theater of the capital. Here, epithets assume prominence
more swiftly than the images do. The extensive use of epithets, above all on seals, and the promiscuity
of the images that they accompany, suggest that in the post-Iconoclastic capital the names of major
icons had greater specificity and evocative force than their images.61 The prominence of the names
reflects the strongly chorographic significance of the icons, which belonged to key sites within
the capital’s sacred cartography of liturgical processions and imperial visitations; it might also, as
Bissera Pentcheva has proposed, reflect the sheer, overwhelming splendor of the icons themselves,
which were designed to dazzle rather than inform the gaze.62 Arguing that the icon in the wake of
Iconoclasm was epitomized not as painting but as an imprint in relief — as quoted above, “sculpture
in an extended field” — she conjures the Constantinopolitan palladia as precious-metal reliefs, in
which the elements of color were furnished by enamel of often exquisitely challenging sophistication.
Seen in conjunction with the magnificence of many-colored architectural revetments, textiles glinting
with gold, the bobbing flames of prodigally many lights, clouds of incense, and reverberant song, she
argues, such objects must have ravished the senses. Alive in the shimmer of living light, often moving
in lavish procession, they must have offered not a defined and static image, but a blaze of shifting
and ever varied gleams and colors. Variety — poikilia — not mimesis defined them.63 To epitomize
the impact of such relief icons, with the living glitter of their surfaces, Pentcheva mobilizes the
language honed by consummate poets of visual splendor. It is a language familiar from the epigrams
quoted above. The poets spoke of the thauma, the wonder, of such visual splendor. It was precisely
that wonder, she believes, that made the icons wonder-working — made them thaumatourgai. The
medium was the message — in her words, “the medium of the miraculous.”
The sacred sites and spectacles of an imperially triumphant Constantinople were surely furnished
with extraordinary magnificence in the decades of the Macedonian emperors. They can only have

59 Carr, “Taking Place,” 388‒408. Attaleia,” Byzantion 78 (2008): 103, n. 1, especially Werner
60 Pentcheva, The Sensual Icon, 183‒208; Drpić, “The Seibt, “Die Darstellung der Theotokos auf byzantinischen
Kosmos of Epigrams”; Annemarie Weyl Carr, “Icons Bleisiegeln, besonders im 11. Jahrhundert,” in Studies
and the Object of Pilgrimage in Middle Byzantine in Byzantine Sigillography, 1, ed. Nicolas Oikonomides
Constantinople,” DOP 56 (2002): 75‒92, at 92. (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1987), 35‒56.
61 A good recent bibliography on Marian imagery on seals 62 Pentcheva, The Sensual Icon, passim, esp. 121‒54,

is given in John Cotsonis and John Nesbitt, “The Virgin 183‒98.

Aigyptia (the Egyptian) on a Byzantine Lead Seal of 63 Ibid., 198‒208.


Reflections on the Medium of the Miraculous

dazzled those who witnessed them. The impact

of this splendor upon the image of the holy
was indelible: it was in the post-Iconoclastic
era that painters abandoned encaustic in favor
of gold. No author has integrated with greater
sophistication than Pentcheva the language
of theology, poetry, and splendid materials to
convey the aesthetics of Byzantium at its most
opulent and grandiose, and she has conferred
upon them the power of the miraculous. But was
the medium really the icon?
The transformative power of such
Constantinopolitan polychrome relief icons
upon the medium of Byzantine miracle-workers
can no longer be pursued in the capital, where
they have vanished. One must turn to the
empire at large. Tangible testimony to the life of
miraculous icons of any kind is notably sparse
in the Macedonian period. Prominent panel-
painted icons do survive: the huge, 137 × 93 cm
Portaitissa at Iviron Monastery on Athos has
been attributed to the first half of the eleventh
century by Panagiotes L. Vocotopoulos;64 the
Nikopoios in Venice is more likely to belong
to the eleventh than the twelfth century;65 the
beautiful patron icon of Makhairas Monastery
on Cyprus, initially labeled “Hagiosoritissa,” is
surely also eleventh-century (Fig. 12).66 Each
of these is or has been regarded as a major
palladium, but it is not clear when or how any of
them assumed thaumaturgic status. Nonetheless,
highly venerated panels did exist in the eleventh Fig. 10. Typikon of the Mother of God Naupaktitissa,
century outside the capital. Best known is the ad 1092‒1118. Palermo, Archive of the Regia Cappella
Naupaktitissa, for which a confraternity existed Palatina, Pergamena di S. Maria di Naupactos, no. 1
by 1048 (Fig. 10).67 Its medium is not specified (Photo: Anthony Cutler)

64 Panagiotes L. Vocotopoulos, “Note sur l’icône de la Icons before the Twelfth Century,” in Cyprus and
Vierge Portaitissa,” Zograf 25  (1996): 27‒30; Thomas the Balance of Empires. Art and Archaeology from
Steppan, “Überlegungen zur Ikone der Panhagia Portaitissa Justinian I to the Coeur de Lion, ed. Charles Anthony
im Kloster Iwiron am Berg Athos,” in Sinnbild und Stewart, Thomas W. Davis, and Annemarie Weyl Carr,
Abbild. Zur Funktion des Bildes, ed. Sybille-Karin Moser, American Schools of Oriental Research, Archaeological
Kunstgeschichtliche Studien-Innsbruck, Neue Folge, 1 Reports 20, CAARI Monographs, 5 (Boston: American
(Innsbruck: Universität Innsbruck, 1994), 23‒49. Schools of Oriental Research, 2014), 135‒52, at 140‒41;
65 Thomas E. A. Dale, “Cultural Hybridity in Medieval Papageorghiou, Icons of Cyprus, pl. 3, though I believe it
Venice: Reinventing the East at San Marco after the is unlikely to predate the eleventh-century advent of its
Fourth Crusade,” in San Marco, Byzantium, and the name Hagiosoritissa. Initially labeled Μ(ήτ)ηρ Θ(εο)ῦ
Myths of Venice, ed. Robert S. Nelson and Henry Maguire ἡ Ἁγιοσωρίτισσα, its name was altered at some point to
(Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library read Αγιομαχαιριορίτισσα.
and Collection, 2010), 151‒91, at 174‒75 with earlier 67 John Nesbitt and John Wiita, “A Confraternity of the

bibliography. Comnenian Era,” BZ 68 (1975): 360‒84.

66 See most recently Sophocles Sophocleous, “Cypriot

Annemarie Weyl Carr

Fig. 11. Seal of a bishop of Attaleia with the image of the Fig. 12. Mother of God Hagiomakhairioritissa, eleventh
Mother of God Aigyptia. Obverse: Μή(τηρ) Θ(εο)ῦ Ἡ century. Holy Monastery of Makhairas (Photo: Byzantine
Αἰγ(υ)πτία; reverse: Θ(εοτό)κε β(οή)θ(ει) τῷ σῷ δούλ(ῳ) Museum of the Archbishop Makarios III Foundation)
Θεοδοσίῳ ἐπισκόπῳ Ἀτταλείας, eleventh century.
American private collection (Photo: John Cotsonis)

in its typikon, so it is hard to use it as evidence. On the other hand, the Portaitissa is clearly a panel,
and seems likely to have gained pilgrimage status during the second half of the eleventh century, when
a church was built for it at the monastery gate to accommodate pilgrim traffic.68 The Aigyptia, singled
out already on the episcopal seals of Antalya in the first half of the eleventh century (Fig. 11),69 is
described as a panel painting when it resurfaces in the documentary record with Ludolph von Suchem’s
pilgrimage visit to it in 1336.70 Likewise, miracles of the portrait of St Nikon of Sparta — especially
that of the monk whose painful jaw was cured not by Nikon himself but by a voice emanating from
the icon — show that this, too, was regarded as thaumaturgic, and it is clearly described in his Vita as

68 Vocotopoulos, “Note sur l’icône de la Vierge (London: Palestine Pilgrims Text Society, 1895), 45: “In
Portaitissa,” 29. The chapel appears in the documentary the Greek quarter there is a figure of the Blessed Virgin
record only around 1183 when its doors were replaced; it Mary painted upon a tablet, of which tablets there are three
was old by then. It is unlikely to have been built before in the world — to wit, one at Rome, one at Constantinople,
the mid-eleventh century, given its absence from the and the third at Satalia (=Antalya); they are all of the same
Vita of John the Euthymios, and the Vita of George: size, shape, and appearance. It is believed that St Luke
see Jacques Lefort, Nicolas Oikonomides, and Denise painted these three pictures from the Blessed Mary’s own
Papachyrssanthou, eds, Actes d’Iviron, 3 vols, Archives person, and out of respect for this painting God works
de l’Athos 14, 16, 18, 19 (Paris: P. Lethielleux, 1985‒94), many miracles there.” When the Mamluks seized Antalya
2:38. in 1373, the icon was brought to Kyrenia, Cyprus, with
69 Cotsonis and Nesbitt, “The Virgin Aigyptia,” 103‒13. all the relics and adornments of its church: see Leontios
70 Ludolph von Suchem, Description of the Holy Land, and Makhairas, Recital Concerning the Sweet Land of Cyprus
of the Way Thither, Written in 1350, trans. Aubrey Stewart entitled ‘Chronicle’, 2 vols, ed., trans, and with notes by


Reflections on the Medium of the Miraculous

Fig. 13. Ioannes. Hexaptych: Leaf with miracles of Christ and icons of the Mother of God, late eleventh century. Mount
Sinai, Monastery of Saint Catherine (photo: Holy Monastery of Saint Catherine, Mount Sinai)

painted.71 Indeed, painting had from early Christian times been the preemptive medium of holy men’s
portraits,72 and still in the fourteenth century Theodora Synadene had deferred to paint as the apposite
medium for portraiture. Thus painted panels did exist in the eleventh century, and did offer a medium
of the miraculous. Icons of Mary were among them.
What one craves at this point are replicas, to offer insight into the range, intensity, and appeal
of these cults, above all of the metropolitan ones with their splendorous images. Icons are not
promiscuous, but they do propagate. They announce their reputation by repetition. To be anchored
in the religious imagination of the empire, the great cult icons needed to propagate a shape for their
names. One seeks their visual presence. The range of iconographic types still seen in the surviving
Marian icons of the eleventh century is limited and familiar: the Portaitissa is an Aristokratousa very
like the Hodegetria, the Nikopoios adopts the pose seen also in the icon of the Kyros Monastery,73

R. M. Dawkins (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932), 1: 346, 5 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), speaks of fresco portraits
¶368. Later still, its profile orant posture facing to the left and panel-painted portraits, but none in precious metal;
was incorporated into eighteenth-century Cypriot images similarly, Leslie Brubaker and John Haldon, Byzantium
as the first of St Luke’s three icons: see Constantinides, Η in the Iconoclast Era, c. 680‒850: A History (Cambridge:
Διήγησις, pl. 45. Cambridge University Press, 2011), 336, point out the high
71 Denis F. Sullivan, The Life of Saint Nikon. Text, proportion of portraits among surviving panels.
Translation and Commentary (Brookline, MA: Hellenic 73 The type of the Kyriotissa is known from the late twelfth-

College Press, 1987), 152‒55, ¶44 on the production of the century fresco discovered at the Kalenderhane Camii, see
icon; 212‒19, ¶63 on the story of the healing of the youth Cecil L. Striker and Y. Doğan Kuban, eds, Kalenderhane
Loukas with a disabled jaw. in Istanbul. The Buildings, Their History, Architecture,
72 Thus Katharine Marsengill, Portraits and Icons: and Decoration. Final Reports on the Archaeological
Between Reality and Spirituality in Byzantine Art, Exploration and Restoration at Kalenderhane Camii
Byzantios, Studies in Byzantine History and Civilization, 1966‒1978 (Mainz: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1997),

Annemarie Weyl Carr

and the Naupaktitissa, Aigyptia and Makhairas icon are all profile orants turning to the left (Figs 10,
11, 12). They repeat types known in the capital. Whether any of them replicates one of the great
Constantinopolitan cults is impossible to guess, except in the one case of the Makhairas icon. It bears a
name known from the capital: the Hagiosoritissa.74 Similar testimony appears in the famous hexaptych
at Sinai with its sequence of Marian types (Fig. 13).75 Here a central figure of the Kyriotissa type —
plausibly associated with Sinai itself — is flanked by four named images associated with major sites
in Constantinople. Venerated names here assume an image. Of the four, the Cheimeuti must reflect
the kind of icon conjured by Pentcheva; its very name is “enamel.”76 The same might have been the
case with the Hagiosoritissa, as well. They are not so much portrait icons as iconic poses — images
of the body — which could have stood up to the shifting spectacle of poikilia. They do not assume
the rightward turn that implies a place to the right side of an accompanying icon of Christ; instead,
they must have been conceived as self-sufficient icons of Mary herself, her attitude echoing that of
her praying devotees. The simulation of a very similar precious metal icon, similarly turned to the left,
is among the many revelatory images in Bissera Pentcheva’s The Sensual Icon.77 Both the Cheimeuti
itself, and the adjacent Hagiosoritissa in the Sinai icon bear the names of Constantinopolitan models;
the icon at Makhairas Monastery, too, bears the name Hagiosoritissa. Thus they are bound explicitly to
the icons in Constantinople. But both are painted panels. They do not replicate or evoke the precious
metal relief of their postulated models. This did not diminish them: as the abraded condition of the
Hodegetria on the Sinai icon shows, the figures there were venerated; and the Makhairas icon became
a potent and vengeful palladion.78 It was as paintings that their metropolitan originals lived on. What
is significant is their transmission. Mimesis superseded poikilia. This is in the end the message of
the miracle-workers: form superseded medium. Had form not superseded medium — compelling as
medium could be — there would have been no icons.

124‒26, pl. 150. The history of the icon seems to go back beautifully reproduced in Mother of God. Representations
into the pre-Iconoclastic period: see Carr, “Icons and the of the Virgin in Byzantine Art, ed. Maria Vassilaki (Milan:
Object of Pilgrimage,” 87, n. 74. Skira, 2000), 138, fig. 82; 144, fig. 87; 145, fig. 88; 147,
74 On the epithet see Nancy Patterson Ševčenko, “Virgin fig. 90.
Hagiosoritissa,” ODB, 3:2171. 76 Pentcheva, The Sensual Icon, 108, 116‒20.

75 George Galavaris, An Eleventh Century Hexaptych of 77 Ibid., 99, fig. 34; 118, fig. 47.

the Saint Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai, Library of 78 On the icon see note 66 above. Little is known about its

Hellenic Institute of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Studies, history before its extensive eighteenth-century replication,
45 (Venice and Athens: Hellenic Institute of Byzantine and and it is not certain when it came to the monastery or when
Post-Byzantine Studies, Mount Sinai Foundation, 2009), it was first veiled. We do learn from Leontios Makhairas,
25‒27, pl. 1; Nicolette Trahoulia, “The Truth in Painting: however, that the Queen Alix, wife of Hugh IV de
A Refutation of Heresy in a Sinai Icon,” JÖB 52 (2002): Lusignan (1324‒59), had been struck dumb by the icon of
271‒85; George A. Soteriou and Maria Soteriou, Eἰκόνες Makhairas Monastery because she had as a woman entered
τῆς Μονῆς Σινᾶ, 2  vols, Collection de l’Institut français the katholikon of the male community: Makhairas, Recital,
d’Athènes, 100 (Athens: Institut français d’Athènes, 1: ¶74. Occam’s razor would make that icon the one still
1956‒58), 1:125‒28; 2: figs  146‒49. The five Marys are venerated today.