Friday, 17 May 2019
Felicity Harley: Magi in Motion: marking identity in early Christian art
From the Constantinian period onwards, the story of the “wise men” who traveled from the east to Jerusalem and Judea in search of the Messiah played a prominent role in Christian art. The iconography of their adoration across the third-sixth centuries has been closely studied. While much scholarly attention has focused on clothing and gesture as pictorial strategies by which to mark their identity, and their “otherness”, this paper turns attention to the representation of motion. Focusing on images produced in Rome during the fourth and fifth centuries, it will argue that the iconography of movement within the scene contained important information for the ancient viewer about the identity of the Magi, and so preserves evidence about the intersection of cultures in early Christianity.