Art, Science, and Neoplatonic Cosmology in Fourteenth-Century Byzantium: The Illustrations of Marcianus Graecus 516 (=904)
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Cantarella, Merih Danali
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CitationCantarella, Merih Danali. 2019. Art, Science, and Neoplatonic Cosmology in Fourteenth-Century Byzantium: The Illustrations of Marcianus Graecus 516 (=904). Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation enters a relatively uncharted territory in Byzantine studies. It focuses on a remarkable yet understudied series of scientific and cosmological illustrations appended to Marcianus Graecus 516 (=904), a fourteenth-century Greek scientific miscellany. Unique in their thematic richness, pictorial ingenuity, and intellectual vigor, the thirteen illustrated folios in the codex represent a wide variety of subjects, such as astronomy, musical theory, theology of history, eschatology, history of mathematical sciences, and humoral theory. Accordingly, my discussion crisscrosses various disciplines, utilizes such varied sources as scientific treatises, letters, homiletic, early rabbinic, and patristic tradition and incorporates them into the history of visual representation. I examine the relations among the diagrammatic, figural, and textual elements on each folio to illuminate some of the most innovative ways in which visual language was put into intellectual use in Byzantium.
I aim to demonstrate that, even though thematically varied, the illustrations in the codex constitute a coherent program and reflect a particular worldview that blends Christian moral philosophy, Pythagorean number symbolism, and Platonic cosmology. This view had particular currency among the late Byzantine Neoplatonic astronomers such as Theodore Metochites (1270–1328) and Nikephoros Gregoras (1295–1360), who sought to establish the legitimacy of mathematical sciences as a means to attain the knowledge of God and to unravel the principles underlying his harmonious universe. While illuminating the multifarious ways in which images participated in the intellectual discourse in Palaeologan Byzantium, this dissertation also aims to shed light on the Byzantine perceptions of the physical, spiritual and temporal character of their universe and their place in it.
The dissertation identifies the diverse and seemingly disparate visual sources the illustrator blended to represent a variety of subjects for which there was little to no established visual tradition in Byzantium. They include religious iconography, astronomical tables, cosmological illustrations, and visual aids used in mathematical and logical thinking. Furthermore, the representation of the two figures on ff. 2v–3r, which I identify as Claudius Ptolemy and Hypatia of Alexandria, indicates the artist’s familiarity with Islamic calligraphy and Mamluk royal iconography. The dissertation hypothesizes that the artist can be identified as John Astrapas from Thessalonike.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029565
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