This article examines literary, epigraphic and archaeological evidence for the Christian reidentification of statuary and reliefs as biblical scenes and protagonists, saints and angels. It argues that Christian identifications were promulgated, amongst others by local bishops, to make sense of imagery of which the original identity had been lost and/or was no longer meaningful. Three conditions for a new identification are discussed: the absence of an epigraphic label, geographical and/or chronological distance separating the statue from its original context of display, and the presence of a specific attribute or characteristic that could become the prompt for reidentification. In their manipulation and modernization of older statuary, Christians showed a much greater appreciation of the statuary medium than generally assumed.
© 2020 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston
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