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Envisioning Worlds in Late Antique Art

New Perspectives on Abstraction and Symbolism in Late-Roman and Early-Byzantine Visual Culture (c. 300-600)

Edited by: Anna Cecilia Olovsdotter
It has long been an accepted assumption that the abstracted mode of visual representation that emerged in late antiquity reflected a collective shift from the outer-directed and ’material’ world-view of classical antiquity to an inner-directed, ’spiritual’ mentality informed by Christianity: the purpose of this volume is to offer a more nuanced and diverse image of the nature and meanings of abstraction and symbolism in late antique and early medieval art, beyond normative intepretation models, and from a number of different methodological and interpretative perspectives. In ten chapters, ten authors specialised in various fields of late-antique and Byzantine art explore the historiographical background of the ’spiritual’ interpretation paradigm, neuroscientific and theological dimensions of Christian visual aesthetics, meanings and motive factors behind apparently wholly abstract and aniconic compositions, symbolic motifs and schemes for visualising cosmic order and the cosmic state of Christ, and the re-use of symbolic Greco-Roman themes in Christian contexts. The result is a multi-focal image of late antique abstraction and symbolism that illuminates the heterogeneity and complexity of the phenomena and of their study.

Author Information

Anna Cecilia Olovsdotter, The Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey.
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Audience: Scholars and advanced students of Greco-Roman and Byzantine art and its modern study.