Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Liakos, Dimitri

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Art


Jesus Christ--Pictorial works; Jesus Christ--Crucifixion; Art; Byzantine


This thesis traces the iconographic development of the Deposition, or the lowering of the body of Christ from the cross, from the first appearance of the scene in the ninth century through the thirteenth century. It concentrates primarily on works of art produced in Byzantium and its territories. The study is divided into four parts. The first describes the literature that influenced the artist's depiction of the scene. The literature is divided into four groups: the canonical Gospels, the apocryphal Gospels, ecclesiastical writings, and the liturgical drama. The second part begins with a brief description of the early Christian artist's interpretation of the Passion story and the changes that took place in the overall iconographic program after the Iconoclastic Controversy. It then examines the earliest extant examples of the Deposition from the late ninth and early tenth centuries. Each is shown to represent a different stage in the process of removing the body from the cross and, depending on its literary source, includes from one to four assisting figures. The third part deals with the narrative illustration, a simple descriptive or storytelling version of the Deposition. This type of illustration was included in extensively illustrated Gospel books. Evidence suggesting a date earlier than the ninth century for the first appearance of the Deposition is presented. An earlier form of the scene may have illustrated the Biblical texts in a manner similar to Gospel books that have survived from the eleventh century. The transformation of the scene from a narrative illustration based on the canonical Gospels to a devotional image, as it was adapted for use in illuminated liturgical books, is then examined. The final section deals with the various psychological interpretations given the scene in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. Both physical changes in the arrangement of figures and emotional changes evident in the expressions and gestures of the figures are examined in manuscript illuminations, icons, ivory carvings, and monumental paintings.


Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


vi, 129 pages




Northern Illinois University

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