The iconography of the sarcophagus of Junius Bassus : by Elizabeth Struthers Malbon

By Elizabeth Struthers Malbon

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These parallels serve Gerke as "proof" for the correctness of his rearrangement. He ar­ gues that the three-figure grouping of the arrest of Paul and the direction of Paul's gaze demand that the Paul scene be next to the Peter scene. When this transformation is made mentally, the upper register becomes a "normal passion sarcophagus" of the Christ-Peter-Paul type, as seen in five-niche tree or columnar sar­ cophagi (for an example see fig. 18 A paraphrase of Gerke's summary conclusion clarifies his un­ derstanding of this new theological construction.

Yet Wilpert was not content with publishing the known corpus; he was concerned to date monuments, to identify scenes by unraveling the iconography, and especially to trace the development of the­ ological ideas as suggested by the visual evidence. "3 The present study also researches early Christian texts as well as early Christian art; both texts and monuments are utilized in an attempt to recover the contemporary conventions behind the Bassus sarcophagus. It should be clear from the outset, however, how the present approach to evaluating visual and verbal evi­ dence differs from that of the "Roman school" (typified by the work of Wilpert) to interpreting artifacts and texts.

15 Ideally one might move from a broad survey, like Grabar's, to an indepth study of a particular monument or monuments, like those of Shelton, Tronzo, and Spain, and back again to a broad overview now enlivened and enriched. In reality such work is beyond the scope of most monographs, including this one, and beyond the competence of many authors, including this one. Rather, we will focus on the iconography of the sarcophagus of Junius Bassus in detail and in context and raise in the final chapter some ques­ tions to be asked as part of that larger and ongoing project of re­ writing the history of early Christian art—and indeed the early Christian period.

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The iconography of the sarcophagus of Junius Bassus : by Elizabeth Struthers Malbon
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