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Hesychasm and Art

Hesychasm and Art: The Appearance of New Iconographic Trends in Byzantine and Slavic Lands in the 14th and 15th Centuries OPEN ACCESS

Anita Strezova
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13www4f
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  • Book Info
    Hesychasm and Art
    Book Description:

    “Although many of the iconographic traditions in Byzantine art formed in the early centuries of Christianity, they were not petrified within a time warp. Subtle changes and refinements in Byzantine theology did find reflection in changes to the iconographic and stylistic conventions of Byzantine art. This is a brilliant and innovative book in which Dr Anita Strezova argues that a religious movement called Hesychasm, especially as espoused by the great Athonite monk St Gregory Palamas, had a profound impact on the iconography and style of Byzantine art, including that of the Slav diaspora, of the late Byzantine period. While many have been attracted to speculate on such a connection, none until now has embarked on proving such a nexus. The main stumbling blocks have included the need for a comprehensive knowledge of Byzantine theology; a training in art history, especially iconological, semiotic and formalist methodologies; extensive fieldwork in Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Turkey and Russia, and a working knowledge of Greek, Old Church Slavonic, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian, Latin as well as several modern European languages, French, German, Russian and Italian. These are some of the skills which Dr Strezova has brought to her topic.” Professor Sasha Grishin AM, FAHA Adjunct Professor of Art History School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics The Australian National University

    eISBN: 978-1-925021-85-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History
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  1. Foreword (pp. xvii-xviii)
    Sasha Grishin

    Although many of the iconographic traditions in Byzantine art formed in the early centuries of Christianity, they were not petrified within a time warp. Subtle changes and refinements in Byzantine theology did find reflection in changes to the iconographic and stylistic conventions of Byzantine art.

    This is a brilliant and innovative book in which Dr Anita Strezova argues that a religious movement called Hesychasm, especially as espoused by the great Athonite monk St Gregory Palamas, had a profound impact on the iconography and style of Byzantine art, including that of the Slav diaspora, of the late Byzantine period. While many...

  2. Introduction (pp. 1-8)

    The extant monuments in Byzantium and the Orthodox Slavic territories from the Palaeologan period show evidence of stylistic and iconographic changes in icon painting, murals and book illumination. There is, however, no scholarly consensus on the reasons for these transformations. What initiated the development of an innovative style of Christian art in Byzantine and Slavic lands in the 14th and 15th centuries? What caused the interruption of the ‘pre-renaissance’ in Byzantium, which was, admittedly, only incipient? Was the development of a new artistic style during this period the result of a revived interest in late-Byzantine society in classical antiquity?¹ Alternatively,...

  3. In the last two centuries of its existence, the Byzantine Empire, which was restored after the Latin conquest of Constantinople, was politically and economically weak. Nevertheless, its intellectual and cultural influence had a widespread impact upon religious, literary and artistic development in the Slavic lands and Italy.¹ Economically, the split empire was dependent on Genoese and Venetian interests, which were affected by the relationship between Italian and Ottoman authorities around the Black Sea. Politically, the Byzantine state was reduced to a minimum.² Sociologically, a significant number of the Byzantine population died from the Black Death, and the power of the...

  4. At different times, the subject of the re-emergence of hesychasm in the Byzantine world was related to new trends in the Palaeologan era of the 14th and 15th centuries in Byzantine and Slavic lands. Hesychasm supposedly affected the ‘pre-renaissance’ in Byzantium by stifling its development. Fruitful in itself, this hypothesis must be used with caution. Although it is possible that there were circumstances in which the monastic rigor of the 14th and 15th centuries was detrimental to artistic development, there is no stark contrast between the theology of Byzantine hesychasm and the most creative aspects of Palaeologan art. If the...

  5. The subject of Christ’s Transfiguration appears regularly in a doctrinal context in the writings of the hesychasts, connected with the vision of the ‘age to come’. The event of the Transfiguration represents the vision of Christ in His glory, the deified state of being in God’s Kingdom. For the ‘Son of God became man so that we might become gods’.¹ It is a doctrine underlining Byzantine aesthetics and the theory of the image (icon) in representational arts; the inaccessible and invisible Triadic God imparts himself directly to his creation through his incarnation and in his uncreated glory or energies.² Hence,...

  6. The composition of the Transfiguration is the chief illustrative example of any vision of the uncreated light of the Godhead, which was the basis of hesychast theology. All the issues associated with the Transfiguration were, therefore, important for the hesychasts, such as the transfiguration of the body (by the divine light) equalling that of the Resurrection. The feast of the Transfiguration shares a common theological basis with the Anastasis, and both are a true expression of the divine nature of Christ and manifestation of the phenomenon of the supernatural light of glory. If the Transfiguration fulfills the Theophany on Mount...

  7. While the compositions of the Anastasis and the Transfiguration represent the realm ofoikonomia(all the works by which God reveals himself and communicates his life), the figurative representation of the Trinity circumscribes the domain oftheologia(the mystery of God’s inmost life within the Blessed Trinity).¹ Prior to the hesychast controversy, Latin fathers introduced thefilioqueclause as an addition to the Nicene Creed, but the hesychasts condemned and refuted this dogma. In their endeavour to defend the Christological and Trinitarian dogma, the hesychasts affirmed the ontological distinction within the Triune God. They accepted the difference between the hypostases...

  8. Conclusion (pp. 233-242)

    The dominant subject of this book is the impact of hesychasm on the development of new artistic trends during the Palaeologan era.

    A brief overview of the origins of the term hesychasm explored four distinct, but interrelated, meanings of the word. Primarily, the phrases hesychasm andhesychiadistinguish the ‘solitary life’ from that of living in acoenobiumor monastic community. Hesychasm also refers to the psychosomatic technique of meditation that involves bodily ascesis and recitation of the Jesus Prayer. Moreover, the expression ‘hesychasm’ signifies the synthesis between the early Christian spiritual tradition of the desert fathers and the mysticism...