Image as artifact: A social-historical analysis of female figures with cups in the banquet scenes from the catacomb of SS. Marcellino e Pietro, Rome.

Description
Title: Image as artifact: A social-historical analysis of female figures with cups in the banquet scenes from the catacomb of SS. Marcellino e Pietro, Rome.
Authors: Tulloch, Janet H.
Date: 2001
Abstract: This study examines and interprets eight funerary banquet frescoes (wall-paintings) dating c. 280--320AD from the catacomb of SS. Marcellino e Pietro, Rome for visual evidence of women's roles in ritual in early Christian communities in the city of Rome. It pioneers the use of a ground-breaking socio-historical method known as "Visual Hermeneutics" (the term was coined by Dr. Margaret Miles in Image as Insight [1985]) on visual data from early Christian Funerary Art. The method, (1) challenges presuppositions often brought to the study of this visual data and (2) identifies preconditions for understanding visual art, making it available to the cultural historian as a source of historical information. Thus the phrase: "In imagine veritas.": There is truth to be found in images. By this method I demonstrate that a gender bias is evident in the interpretative writings of past and contemporary scholars on female figures in early Christian Funerary Art. This finding is important because previous research in this field has uncritically interpreted female bodies found in this earliest form of Christian visual representation as 'abstract signs'. On the other hand, unknown male figures in early Christian Funerary Art (with the exception of the Good Shepherd) are frequently interpreted as real or actual individuals. Such an a priori reading disallows historical interpretation for any female figure that appears in early Christian Funerary Art. This interpretative bias is particularly relevant for, though by no means limited to, female figures which do not correspond directly to a textual reference in any of the books of the New Testament. In addition, by applying this method, I show that even where a female figure in early Christian Funerary Art has a textual referent in the New Testament (as is the case in the story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well, John 4:7--42), the Samaritan woman's translation into a female figure in early Christian Funerary Art has been enough to interpret her as a 'Symbol'---specifically a personification (ex. the Christian congregation)---by contemporary male scholars. In order to interpret the eight banquet scenes, which have both male and female figures, more accurately I re-establish the images in their original archaeological and social-historical settings using a comparative analysis with pagan Roman Funerary Art and Inscriptions. This comparison reveals that a Roman understanding of 'Ordinary' (sequential) and 'Mythical' (ritual, eternal or non-sequential) time is at work in the eight banquet scenes and that these modalities are in the process of being redefined. The recognition that ordinary and mythical time function in new ways in these images, both in the speech-action of the inscription (painted on the fresco) and in the image-action of the visual narrative, confirms the Christian identification of the wall-paintings. It also suggests that far from being personifications, the female figures raising cups in the banquet scenes of SS. Marcellino e Pietro are representations of historical (real) ritual agents who mediate the care of their deceased relatives in the after-life through these private funeral feasts for the Christian dead. Finally, this study offers a new interpretation of these eight banquet frescoes which places early Christian women in Rome at the centre of funerary rituals as the leaders and co-leaders of a cup-offering rite on behalf of the Christian dead.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/6450
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2005 // Theses, 1910 - 2005
Files
NQ68007.PDF18.88 MBAdobe PDFOpen