Kathleen Corrigan

in The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199252466
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History


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Iconography and iconology, which are often paired in encyclopedias and dictionaries of art, both refer to the descriptive and classificatory study of images in hopes of understanding the meaning, either direct or indirect, of the subject matter being represented. The most influential statement of the iconographical/iconological method has been that of Erwin Panofsky, who defines three levels of interpretation in his Studies in Iconology: pre-iconographical description, iconographical analysis, and iconological interpretation. Panofsky's method has been challenged by other practitioners in recent years. Iconography is a fundamental approach to the study of early Christian and Byzantine art. This article discusses some of the issues that have been investigated by scholars of Early Christian and Byzantine iconography, including Christian art (catacomb paintings and carved sarcophagi), the impact on Byzantine art of iconoclasm and the theory of images, the history of the iconic representations of Christ and the Virgin, imperial iconography, and the survival or revival of iconography from the pagan past.

Keywords: iconography; iconology; Byzantine art; Erwin Panofsky; pre-iconographical description; iconographical analysis; iconological interpretation; Christian art; iconoclasm; theory of images

Article.  4148 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Middle Eastern Languages

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