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The Secrets and Stories Behind Gertrud Schiller's Iconography of Christian Art PDF 29



Gertrud Schiller: Iconography of Christian Art




If you are interested in the history and meaning of Christian art, you may have come across the name Gertrud Schiller. She was a German art historian who devoted her life to studying and documenting the iconography of Christian art from its origins to the modern era. Her magnum opus, Iconography of Christian Art, is a monumental work that covers thousands of images and symbols in six volumes. In this article, we will explore who Gertrud Schiller was, what iconography of Christian art is, why her work is important, and what are the main features and contributions of each volume.




gertrud schiller iconography of christian art pdf 29



Introduction




Who was Gertrud Schiller?




Gertrud Schiller was born in 1905 in Berlin, Germany. She studied art history at the University of Berlin under Erwin Panofsky, one of the most influential scholars of iconology. She also studied theology and philosophy at the University of Marburg under Rudolf Bultmann, a prominent theologian and biblical scholar. She became interested in the relationship between art and religion, especially in the early Christian period. She worked as a curator at the Berlin State Museums until 1945, when she fled to West Germany after World War II. She continued her research and teaching at various institutions, including the University of Munich, where she became a professor in 1959. She died in 1985 in Munich.


What is iconography of Christian art?




Iconography is the study of images and symbols in art. It analyzes how artists use visual elements to convey meanings and messages to their viewers. Iconography of Christian art is a specific branch of iconography that focuses on the images and symbols related to Christianity. It traces how Christian themes, stories, doctrines, and figures have been represented in art throughout history and across cultures. It also examines how Christian art has been influenced by other religions, such as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.


Why is her work important?




Gertrud Schiller's work is important for several reasons. First, she was one of the first scholars to systematically collect and classify thousands of images and symbols from various sources, such as manuscripts, paintings, sculptures, mosaics, frescoes, icons, stained glass windows, coins, medals, seals, etc. She also provided detailed descriptions and interpretations of each image and symbol based on historical, theological, liturgical, artistic, and cultural contexts. Second, she was one of the first scholars to adopt a comparative approach to iconography of Christian art. She compared how different regions, periods, styles, denominations, and movements depicted the same or similar subjects in different ways. She also explored how Christian art borrowed or adapted from other religions or secular sources. Third, she was one of the first scholars to emphasize the diversity and complexity of iconography of Christian art. She showed how Christian art was not a monolithic or static phenomenon but a dynamic and evolving one that reflected the changing beliefs, values, and needs of its creators and audiences.


Main body




Volume I: From the Beginnings to the End of the Iconoclastic Controversy




Overview and contents




The first volume of Iconography of Christian Art was published in 1966. It covers the period from the beginnings of Christianity to the end of the iconoclastic controversy in the 9th century. The iconoclastic controversy was a dispute over the use and veneration of images in the Byzantine Empire and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The iconoclasts, or image-breakers, opposed the making and worshipping of images as idolatrous and heretical. The iconophiles, or image-lovers, defended the use and veneration of images as legitimate and beneficial. The controversy lasted for more than a century and resulted in several waves of iconoclasm and iconophilia, as well as political and religious conflicts.


The first volume consists of four parts. The first part deals with the origins and development of Christian art from the 1st to the 4th century. It examines how Christians adopted, adapted, or rejected the artistic traditions of Judaism, paganism, and Roman imperial culture. It also analyzes how Christians expressed their faith, identity, and community through art in various contexts, such as catacombs, sarcophagi, churches, houses, etc. The second part deals with the emergence and establishment of Christian iconography from the 4th to the 6th century. It explores how Christians developed a distinctive visual language to represent their sacred stories, doctrines, and figures. It also investigates how Christian art responded to the challenges and opportunities posed by the legalization, expansion, and diversification of Christianity in the Roman Empire and beyond. The third part deals with the transformation and innovation of Christian art from the 6th to the 8th century. It studies how Christian art adapted to the changing political, social, and cultural circumstances caused by the collapse of the western Roman Empire, the rise of Islam, and the emergence of new kingdoms and peoples. It also examines how Christian art experimented with new forms, styles, and techniques to express new ideas, emotions, and experiences. The fourth part deals with the crisis and resolution of Christian art from the 8th to the 9th century. It traces how Christian art was affected by the iconoclastic controversy in terms of production, destruction, preservation, restoration, and interpretation. It also evaluates how Christian art resolved or reconciled the tensions between image and word, matter and spirit, human and divine.


Highlights and examples




The first volume contains many highlights and examples that illustrate the richness and diversity of Christian art in this period. Some of them are:



  • The Good Shepherd: This is one of the earliest and most common images of Christ in early Christian art. It depicts Christ as a shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders or surrounded by a flock of sheep. It symbolizes Christ's care for his followers as well as his role as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy (Isaiah 40:11; John 10:11). The image also draws on the pagan motif of Orpheus or Hermes as a shepherd who charms animals with his music or magic.



  • The Chi-Rho: This is one of the earliest and most common symbols of Christ in early Christian art. It consists of two Greek letters that form an abbreviation for Christ (ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ). It also resembles a cross or a monogram. The symbol was popularized by Emperor Constantine after he claimed to have seen it in a vision before his victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 CE. He ordered his soldiers to paint it on their shields and banners. The symbol also appears on coins, monuments, jewelry, etc.



  • The Santa Sabina Basilica: This is one of the oldest surviving churches in Rome. It was built in the 5th century on the site of a former house church. It has a simple rectangular plan with a nave, two aisles, an apse, and a narthex. It has a wooden roof with coffered ceilings decorated with paintings of biblical scenes. It has a marble floor with geometric patterns and inscriptions. It has a wooden door with carved panels depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments.



Reception and criticism




The first volume of Iconography of Christian Art was well received by scholars and critics. It was praised for its comprehensive scope, meticulous research, clear organization, and rich illustration. It was also appreciated for its interdisciplinary approach, comparative perspective, and nuanced interpretation. It was recognized as a landmark work that set new standards and opened new horizons for the study of Christian art.


However, the first volume also faced some challenges and limitations. Some of them were:



  • The availability and reliability of sources: Schiller relied mainly on published sources, such as books, journals, catalogs, etc. She did not have access to many original artworks or archives that were either lost, damaged, inaccessible, or unpublished. She also had to deal with the problems of dating, attribution, authenticity, and preservation of the sources she used.



  • The language and translation issues: Schiller wrote her work in German and used German terminology and references. She also translated many texts and inscriptions from other languages, such as Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, etc. She did not always provide the original texts or explain her translation choices. This made her work difficult to read and understand for non-German speakers or non-specialists.



  • The scope and focus of the work: Schiller covered a vast period and area of Christian art in her first volume. She tried to include as many images and symbols as possible from various regions, periods, styles, denominations, and movements. However, this also meant that she could not go into much detail or depth for each image or symbol. She also tended to focus more on the iconographic meaning than on the artistic form or function of the images and symbols.



Volume II: The Passion of Jesus Christ




Overview and contents




The second volume of Iconography of Christian Art was published in 1971. It covers the subject of the Passion of Jesus Christ in Christian art from the early Christian period to the modern era. The Passion of Jesus Christ refers to the events leading up to his death on the cross, such as his arrest, trial, scourging, crucifixion, burial, etc. It also includes his resurrection from the dead and his appearances to his disciples.


such as manuscripts, paintings, sculptures, mosaics, frescoes, icons, stained glass windows, etc. It also explores how Christians expressed their theological, emotional, and ethical responses to the Passion through art. The second part deals with the variations and innovations of the Passion iconography from the 15th to the 18th century. It studies how Christians experimented with new forms, styles, and techniques to represent the Passion in more realistic, dramatic, and expressive ways. It also investigates how Christians responded to the challenges and opportunities posed by the Renaissance, Reformation, Counter-Reformation, Baroque, Enlightenment, etc. The third part deals with the transformations and interpretations of the Passion iconography from the 19th to the 20th century. It traces how Christians adapted to the changing political, social, and cultural circumstances caused by the Industrial Revolution, World Wars, Colonialism, Modernism, Postmodernism, etc. It also evaluates how Christians reinterpreted or questioned the meaning and relevance of the Passion in light of new artistic movements, theological debates, ethical issues, etc.


Highlights and examples




The second volume contains many highlights and examples that illustrate the richness and diversity of Christian art on the Passion of Jesus Christ in this period. Some of them are:



  • The Crucifixion: This is one of the most common and central images of Christ in Christian art. It depicts Christ nailed to a wooden cross with a crown of thorns on his head and a sign above his head that reads INRI (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews). It symbolizes Christ's sacrifice for the salvation of humanity as well as his victory over sin and death. The image also draws on various sources and traditions, such as Roman crucifixion practices, Jewish messianic expectations, pagan sacrificial rituals, etc.



  • The Stations of the Cross: This is a series of 14 images that depict the events of the Passion from Jesus' condemnation by Pilate to his burial in the tomb. It originated as a devotional practice in medieval Europe that involved visiting and praying at sites associated with the Passion in Jerusalem or elsewhere. It later became a popular form of art that adorned many churches and chapels. It aims to help Christians meditate on and imitate Christ's suffering and love.



  • The Isenheim Altarpiece: This is one of the most famous examples of German Renaissance art. It was painted by Matthias Grünewald in 1512-1516 for a hospital chapel in Isenheim. It consists of several panels that can be opened or closed to reveal different scenes related to the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. It is known for its vivid colors, expressive figures, and dramatic contrasts. It also reflects the influence of mysticism, humanism, and reform movements.



  • The Ecce Homo: This is a type of image that depicts Christ presented by Pilate to the crowd before his crucifixion with the words "Behold the man" (John 19:5). It originated in late medieval Europe as a way of emphasizing Christ's humanity and humiliation. It later became a popular subject for artists who wanted to portray Christ's suffering and dignity in various ways. It also inspired many literary and musical works.



the Eucharist, the sacrament of his presence and sacrifice. The image also draws on various sources and traditions, such as Jewish Passover rituals, Greco-Roman banquet scenes, etc.


Reception and criticism




The second volume of Iconography of Christian Art was also well received by scholars and critics. It was praised for its extensive scope, thorough research, coherent organization, and abundant illustration. It was also appreciated for its interdisciplinary approach, comparative perspective, and critical interpretation. It was recognized as a valuable work that advanced the knowledge and understanding of Christian art on the Passion of Jesus Christ.


However, the second volume also faced some challenges and limitations. Some of them were:



  • The selection and representation of images: Schiller selected and presented a large number of images from various sources, but she did not explain or justify her criteria or methods for doing so. She also did not provide enough information or analysis on the artistic aspects of the images, such as form, style, technique, composition, etc. She focused more on the iconographic aspects, such as meaning, symbolism, function, etc.



  • The balance and coherence of the work: Schiller divided her work into three parts according to chronological periods, but she did not always maintain a consistent or clear structure or argument within each part. She sometimes repeated or contradicted herself or left some gaps or questions unanswered. She also did not always relate or compare the different parts or periods to each other.



  • The perspective and evaluation of the work: Schiller adopted a historical and analytical perspective to study the iconography of Christian art on the Passion of Jesus Christ, but she did not always acknowledge or address her own assumptions, biases, or values. She sometimes expressed her personal opinions or preferences without providing sufficient evidence or reasoning. She also did not always consider or engage with alternative or opposing views or interpretations.



Volume III: The Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity, Virgin Mary, Saints and Angels




Overview and contents




The third volume of Iconography of Christian Art was published in 1976. It covers the subjects of the Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity, Virgin Mary, Saints and Angels in Christian art from the early Christian period to the modern era. These subjects are related to the events and figures that followed or accompanied the Passion of Jesus Christ in the Christian faith and tradition.


the Ascension of Jesus Christ from the 1st to the 20th century. It explores how Christians depicted the event of Christ's ascending to heaven forty days after his resurrection. It also investigates how Christians expressed their understanding of Christ's exaltation and intercession through art. The third part deals with the iconography of Pentecost from the 1st to the 20th century. It studies how Christians depicted the event of the Holy Spirit descending upon the apostles and other believers fifty days after Christ's resurrection. It also evaluates how Christians expressed their experience of the Holy Spirit's presence and power through art. The fourth part deals with the iconography of the Trinity from the 1st to the 20th century. It traces how Christians depicted the doctrine of God as one in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It also assesses how Christians expressed their faith in and worship of the Triune God through art. The fifth part deals with the iconography of the Virgin Mary from the 1st to the 20th century. It follows how Christians depicted the mother of Jesus Christ in various roles and aspects, such as Theotokos (God-bearer), Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows), Immaculate Conception, Assumption, etc. It also examines how Christians expressed their devotion to and imitation of Mary through art. The sixth part deals with the iconography of saints and angels from the 1st to the 20th century. It surveys how Christians depicted the holy men and women who lived exemplary lives of faith and service and who were recognized as models and intercessors by the church. It also analyzes how Christians expressed their veneration and admiration of saints and angels through art.


Highlights and examples




The third volume contains many highlights and examples that illustrate the richness and diversity of Christian art on these subjects in this period. Some of them are:



  • The Anastasis: This is a type of image that depicts Christ's descent into hell or Hades after his death and before his resurrection. He breaks the gates of hell and frees Adam and Eve and other righteous souls from their captivity. He also defeats Satan and his demons. He holds a cross or a banner as a sign of his triumph. The image symbolizes Christ's universal salvation and his fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. The image also draws on various sources and traditions, such as apocryphal writings, liturgical texts, etc.



  • The Transfiguration: This is a type of image that depicts Christ's appearance in glory on a mountain with Moses and Elijah before three of his disciples: Peter, James, and John. He shines with a bright light and a voice from heaven declares him as God's beloved Son. He also converses with Moses and Elijah about his impending death in Jerusalem. The image symbolizes Christ's divinity and his connection with the law and the prophets. The image also draws on various sources and traditions, such as biblical accounts, mystical visions, etc.



  • The Trinity: This is a type of image that depicts God as one in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are different ways of representing the Trinity in art, such as using symbols (e.g., triangle, circle, shamrock), using human figures (e.g., three men, an old man, a young man, a dove), using hybrid figures (e.g., a three-headed man, a man with three faces), etc. The image symbolizes God's unity and diversity and his relationship with humanity. The image also draws on various sources and traditions, such as theological treatises, creedal statements, etc.



and traditions, such as biblical accounts, apocryphal writings, etc.


The Last Judgment: This is a type of image that depicts Christ as the judge of the living and the dead at the end of time. He is usually shown in a mandorla (an almond-shaped halo) with a cross or a book in his hand. He is surrounded by angels, saints, and other heavenly beings. He separates the righteous from the wicked and sends them to heaven or hell respectively. He also shows his wounds as evidence of his mercy and justice. The image symbolizes Christ's sovereign


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