Prolet Decheva

School: School of Art History and Cultural Policy

Supervisor: Dr Sean Leatherbury

Funding: UCD Ad Astra PhD Studentship

Personifications of abstract ideas in Late Antique and Middle Byzantine Art

The project explores the phenomenon of abstract personifications focusing on their functions in Late Antique and Middle Byzantine visual culture. This is a highly flexible type of personification that differs significantly from the common representations of personified cities or seasons. Devoid of iconographical consistency, such as identifying attributes, these figures can only be identified through an accompanying label. Furthermore, these are not only represented in visual media: they appear, for instance, in philosophical texts, biblical narratives or epigraphical evidence. Thus, only by analysing the relationship between visual and textual sources, while at the same time considering the specific contexts in which they appear, can their intended meanings and functions be properly understood. The longue durĂ©e of abstract personifications raises further questions: How did these change over time and why? To identify continuities and innovations in wider social, political, and religious contexts this phenomenon is being examined in a longer time span (from Late Antiquity to the Middle Byzantine period) and in various visual media (book illumination, mosaics, textile, toreutics, etc.).