Nature and Metaphor

Henry Maguire

in Nectar and Illusion

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199766604
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199950386 | DOI:

Series: Onassis Series in Hellenic Culture

Nature and Metaphor

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  • Ancient and Classical Art (to 500 CE)


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This chapter is concerned with the repetition of metaphors in Byzantine art, with a focus on images that evoked the Virgin. Byzantine homilists and poets created a rich repertoire of metaphorical images to describe the Virgin, many of which were derived from the natural world. These metaphors were reiterated in sermons and hymns until the end of Byzantium. Many of the same images also accompanied the Virgin in her portrayals in Byzantine art, but much less frequently than they appeared in literature, and not at all periods. The most striking examples of artistic poverty in face of the luxuriant nature-derived metaphors of the texts come in the cycles of the Akathistos hymn, which was frequently illustrated in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Here, the rich animal and even horticultural imagery of the poem is largely ignored. For the most part, the illustrations of the Akathistos are rigorously anthropomorphic, with very little attention paid to the nature imagery of the poem.

Keywords: metaphors; sermons; hymns; Akathistos; Virgin; anthropomorphism

Chapter.  11468 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ancient and Classical Art (to 500 CE)

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