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Byzantine descriptions of their own art have puzzled art historians. Not only have Byzantine writers described it as realistic, they also appear to have been oblivious to the distinction in style between Byzantine and ancient art. Two explanations of these puzzling features of Byzantine descriptions have been offered. One appeals to the presumed influence of ancient descriptions (ekphraseis) of art. The other appeals to the Byzantine observer's limited acquaintance with the realism of ancient Greek and Roman art. A third explanation is advanced here. It is based on the willingness of the Byzantines to accept claims that many of their highly venerated images were created in the time of Christ and the apostles. As a result, the Byzantines came to regard as representative of the art of antiquity images that in fact mirrored their own art.
Gesta © 1987 The University of Chicago Press