Ed. by Berger, Albrecht
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CiteScore 2017: 0.19
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Decoding Byzantine ekphraseis on works of art. Constantine Manasses’s description of earth and its audience
The study deals with ekphraseis on works of art and poses the question as to how far these texts can be a reliable source for the study or even the reconstruction of the artefacts they describe. Based on reception theory and readerresponse criticism, in the paper is proposed that as every text, byzantine ekphraseis on artworks presuppose an audience or readership, i. e. the one the author had in mind and on the basis of which he encoded his message. In order to decode this message and by extension to extract any information about the described works of art we must aim to discover their “intended reader”, and identify his or her “horizon of expectations. This proposal is tested in the study of a well known piece of this kind, Manasses’s description of a mosaic floor with a depiction of Earth. The author’s dialogue with the earlier tradition of ekphraseis, his readership’s “horizon of expectations” combined with historical facts, allow us to suppose that Manasses is describing a composition with Xenia scenes and an asarotos motif (unswept floor) created in the early byzantine period and preserved in the Great Palace of Constantinople up to the twelfth century.