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Real Living Painting: Quasi-Objects and Dividuation in the Byzantine World 1

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Abstract This article examines an issue that has troubled Byzantine art historians: what Byzantines meant by “living painting.” It attempts to simplify the problem by accepting the sources at face value (painting was indeed alive) and to complicate our understanding of painting (painting occupied a subject-position just as fully as humans did). It uses the notion of ‘dividuals,’ which are opposed to discrete entities like individuals, and of ‘quasi-object,’ so that painting, metal work, stones, and people all appeared in some fashion as objects, but only superficially so. The cases used to establish this position include: Michael Psellos on paintings of Christ; Eucharistic chalices, divine geology and bloods of Christ; and the miraculous stories of interchanging identities among icons and persons. In this way, this article argues for an understanding of Byzantine materiality as relational; it assumed a participatory aspect among all things and persons in that world.

Affiliations: 1: University of Texas at Austin


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