Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities
2003—2004 Forum on Belief
History of Art (Theology)
HESYCHASM AND THE ICON OF THE TRANSFIGURATION IN LATE BYZANTIUM
The Transfiguration, as the manifestation of the Glory of God, is a subject of special interest for iconography. In this work, Dr. Andreopoulos anticipates identifying the theological impetus for selection of certain Transfiguration icons. Specifically, he will explore the type of Transfiguration icon that appeared in Byzantium in the 14th century. Such iconography reflected the mystical experience of divine light, or the Glory of God.
Closer consideration of iconography from the Comnenian and Paleologian periods, as well as the theology of the divine light, starting with Symeon the New Theologian and culminating with Gregory Palamas in the 14th century, grounds this study. In the 14th century, Transfiguration iconography undergoes a dramatic change characterized by three things: emergence of the complex “hesychastic” mandorla, which consists of a concave square and rhombus inside a circle; the triple representation of Thabor; and the overall tone of the synthesis, quite different from the earlier 10th and 11th century icons.
Ultimately, hesychastic Transfiguration iconography will be explored as one of the most striking expressions of the theology of the spiritual senses, the energies of God and the experience of the Uncreated Light, and the paramount expression of faith-as-experience in sacred art.