The Living Icon in Byzantium and Italy: The Vita Image, Eleventh to Thirteenth Centuries

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9781107034969: The Living Icon in Byzantium and Italy: The Vita Image, Eleventh to Thirteenth Centuries

The Living Icon in Byzantium and Italy is the first book to explore the emergence and function of a novel pictorial format in the Middle Ages, the vita icon, which displayed the magnified portrait of a saint framed by scenes from his or her life. The vita icon was used for depicting the most popular figures in the Orthodox calendar and, in the Latin West, was deployed most vigorously in the service of Francis of Assisi. This book offers a compelling account of how this type of image embodied and challenged the prevailing structures of vision, representation, and sanctity in Byzantium and among the Franciscans in Italy between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. Through the lens of this format, Paroma Chatterjee uncovers the complexities of the philosophical and theological issues that had long engaged both the medieval East and West, such as the fraught relations between words and images, relics and icons, a representation and its subject, and the very nature of holy presence.

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The Living Icon in Byzantium and Italy is the first book to explore the development and significance of the vita icon, which depicts the magnified portrait of a saint framed by smaller scenes from his or her life. The vita icon format emerged in Byzantium in the twelfth century, but also became popular in the Latin West, especially in the Italian peninsula where it was most vigorously used in the service of Francis of Assisi. Through the aesthetic and religious history of the vita icon, Paroma Chatterjee investigates the shared problems of the Orthodox East and the Latin West concerning visual representation and the very definition of sanctity.

About the Author:

Paroma Chatterjee is Assistant Professor of the History of Art at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her research has been supported by a Dumbarton Oaks Junior Fellowship, a Samuel H. Kress Travel Fellowship, a Mellon dissertation writing fellowship, a Penn Humanities Forum postdoctoral fellowship, and a post-doctoral fellowship at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America. Her work has appeared in, or is forthcoming from, the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Art History, Word and Image, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, the Oxford Art Journal and RES: The Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics.

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