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(Joseph (probably) on the other). And while the angels, and our Lord, have the nimbus about the head, the Virgin herself is without it.
A few years later in date than the mosaics last described, are those in the Church of SS. Nazarius and Celsus' at Ravenna, originally constructed as a mausoleum. There are here repeated representations, symbolical or personal, of our Lord; none whatever of the Virgin Mary.
All but, if not quite, contemporary with the last, are the mosaics, again on the “Arcus Triumphalis," of the Church of St. Paul on the Via Ostiensis, presented by Leo the Great (A.D. 441). Here, again, it is the “ Triumph” of the ascended Saviour that is represented, according to the description given in the Revelation of St. John (cap. iv., v.). The four living creatures, the four-and-twenty Elders, holding crowns (i... victors' garlands) in their hands, ss. Peter and Paul—all these are represented, but in no way whatever does the Virgin Mary appear.
The same remarks will apply, mutatis mutandis, to other mosaics3 at Ravenna, of the years 451 and 462 respectively. There is much here to recal our Lord and His Apostles to the minds of the faithful. The Virgin Mary is nowhere represented.
Not even in the sixth century, a period of rapidly increasing barbarism in Italy, is any change yet to be found in the prevailing character of these more public monuments of the Church. To this period belong numerous mosaics, both in Ravenna and at Rome. Among the former we may enumerate those of the Church of S. Vitalis (circ. 550 A.D.), of S. Maria in Cosmedin (A.D. 553), of S. Apollinaris? (A.D. 570). At Rome itself we have mosaics of about the same date, in the church of SS.
8 In the course of last century (in the Pontificate of Benedict XIV), changes are said to have been made in this mosaic, calculated to bring the picture more into accordance with modern Roman ideas. We had intended to set these before our readers, in a drawing which we had hoped to have in readiness for this paper. But as that has not yet reached our hands, we think it better to omit, for the present, any discussion of the charges in question.
9 See Ciampini V. M. i. cap. xxiii..
1 Ibid. cap. xxiv. A good representation of these will be found in D'Agincourt, Peinture, Pl. xvi., No. 6.
Identified in the mosaic with the symbolic designations of the four Evangelists.
4 The later Vetri Antichi, on the other hand, whether they be assigned to the fourth, fifth, or sixth century, indicate that at the time of their execution, whatever that was, there was among private persons at Rome a considerable development in the “ cultus” both of the Virgin Mary and of martyrs such as St. Agnes. There is nothing more of honour traceable in the representations of the Virgin Mary than in those of St. Agnes and St. Laurence. But both one and the other, in these more individual expressions of devotional feeling, present a marked contrast to the public monuments we have to describe.
3 See Ciampini V. M. tom. i. capp. xxv. and xxvi., and Plates lxx. to lxxv.
5 Ciampini V. M. tom. ii. cap. ix. Pll. xix., xx., xxi.
6 Ibid. cap. x. Pll. xxiž., xxiv.
Cosmas and Damianus (A.D. 530), and in that of S. Laurentius (A.D. 578). Among a multitude of Scriptural subjects, or Scriptural personages, there represented, (none others occur, in these more public monuments, till late in the sixth century), there is but onel instance, to our knowledge, of the Virgin Mary being figured at all, and then only in the scene of the Adoration of the Magi. And it is very noteworthy, that in every instance of mosaic decorations, of this or of earlier centuries, placed on the “ Arcus Triumphalis,” or on the “ Arch of the Tribune," it is our Blessed Lord, in every case, who, either by symbolics designation, or by direct representation, is set forth as at once God and Man, and, as such, as the object of religious worship to the faithful; and in no one of these instances is the Virgin Mary in any way represented.
And thus we are brought to the close of the sixth century, a period in which, in art, as in literature, we find proofs of rapid deterioration from the higher standard of earlier times, but in which the public monuments of the Church are as yet primitive and Scriptural in character, and without any the slightest trace of idolatrous worship offered to any creature in derogation of that due to the three persons of the Triune Godhead.
We shall find manifest traces of a change in the character of these monuments in the century that follows. But before proceeding to speak of these, we may briefly notice one, which in character, as well as in date, belongs to the transitional period which we have now reached, though not locally connected with the other monuments above described.
The picture which our readers have before them, is from a Syriac Book of the Gospels, written and illuminated at Zagba,
& Ciampini V. M. tom. ii. cap. vi. (Lib. iv., Epist. Isüü., Romæ, fol. 1668.) Pll. xv., xvi., xvii.
Both letters are charming in their way, 9 Ibid. Pl. xxvii, 1.
to say nothing of their value to the IS. Apollinaris, at Ravenna, Ciam history of Christian art; and we regret pini, tom. ii. Pl. xxvii. The one that space will not allow of our fully only, of which we speak, is exclusive quoting them. But we may state one of those mosaics of Sixtus III. (A.D. C. conclusion to which they point., viz., 435) already described.
that while the nave of a church was 'See Ciampini, tom. i. Tab. xlvi., decorated with stories from the Old Ixvij.; tom. ii. Tab. xv., xvi., xvïi., and New Testaments (for the instrucxix., xxiv., xxviii.
tion, says S. Nilus, of those who cannot 3 Symbolic designation. Paulinus, read Scripture), yet in the chancel (as Bp. of Nola (flor. circ. 420 A.D.) and we should now call it) Christ alone was St. Nilus of Egypt (flor. circ. 440) represented, and that not personally will answer as well as any could for (in His form as man), but symbolically, the feeling of the Church in these viz. by a cross. (This is the only decomatters of sacred art, in West and ration S. Nilus will have in the HieraEast, early in the fifth century. Stu- teion, the Sacrarium of Western wridents of early art should compare the ters.] This Cross, as described by Epist. xii. (ad Severum) and Poema Paulinus, was surrounded by a corona, xxvii. of Paulinus, with the letter of or victor's chaplet, just as we see it in S. Nilus to the Prefect Olympiodorus. numerous early sarcophagi.
in Mesopotamia, at the close of the sixth century (A.D. 586), and purchased nine centuries later by an agent of the Medici for their library at Florence. Of this library it still forms one of the most cherished treasures. The middle and upper part of the picture before us, with which alone we are here concerned, contains a representation of the Ascension. And it will be seen, that here, as in almost all the later mediæval representations of the same scene, whether in East or West, the Virgin Mary is made the central personage in the picture, although in Holy Scripture we have not the slightest intimation of her having been present. And after what has been already said on the subject of the nimbus, our readers will see what is implied by a fact, trivial indeed in itself, but suggestive of the tendencies of the time from which this picture dates. We find that, in this picture, our Lord, the Angels, and the Virgin Mary, have the nimbus, while the Apostles are without it. In all other respects, the older traditions of Christian art are still observed. Tbe Virgin is in an attitude of adoration, standing as in prayer, not seated on a throne of glory, and herself (as in later pictures we shall see her) the object of adoration to others. Though she occupies the central place, with the Eleven on either side of her, and is marked out as distinguished above them by the nimbus about her head, yet do we find as yet no traces of those apocryphal stories concerning her, which had already come into existence, and which, in some parts of the West, about this time, found expression in Christian art. Still less do we find anything approaching to those blasphemous representations of which Western art has been prolific in later ages.
Froin 600 A.D. to 800 A.D. In proceeding now to speak of the monuments of the two centuries immediately following, we will quote, as being exceedingly apposite to our purpose, the words of a foreign writer, to whose authority we have already made appeal. Seroux d’Agincourt, describing the gradual degradation of art in the successive centuries of our Christian era, writes as follows of the seventh:-"In the seventh century .... the custom was introduced of representing in churches persons who were the objects of a special 'cultus' [d’un culte particulier, of a special worship or reverence other than that paid to God Himself].” He then refers to particular mosaics in which occur figures of
* In the lower compartments of the picture are reproduced, on a much smaller scale, two other illustrations from the same ancient source. One is of the Crucifixion, in the other are figured Eusebius Bishop of Cæsarea,
and Ammonius of Alexandria. For further particulars concerning this MS. see Assemani Bibliotheca Medicea, Florentiæ, fol. 1742, where the illustrations are engraved and described.