Evangelist Mark Seated in his Study, anonymous Byzantine Empire
This spectacular image is one of 19,000 images released under a Creative Commons license by the Walters Art Museum.
“In Byzantium, the revival of classical forms during the Macedonian Renaissance briefly reinstated naturalism as an aesthetic principle. But the desire to represent things as they are in the natural world soon disappeared. In this illuminated leaf from a gospel lectionary produced in Constantinople in the second quarter of the eleventh century, the Evangelist Mark is depicted sitting at his desk, thinking. The pose replicates that commonly used in Antiquity to represent philosophers. The persistence of the ancient prototype is evident in the style of dress, which is rendered with fluid brushstrokes. Highlights pick up the play of light on the drapery folds, conveying a sense of the body underneath. On the other hand, any illusion of space is subverted by the uniform gold ground behind the Evangelist; the furniture is flattened out with no pretence of foreshortening or perspectival rendering. The supernatural status of the saint is thus reaffirmed by the unreality of his surroundings.”