1st Edition

Images of Children in Byzantium

By Cecily Hennessy Copyright 2008
    304 Pages
    by Routledge

    304 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book covers a subject that has never previously been addressed, and yet it is both a fascinating and a provocative one: the representation of children in Byzantium. The visual material is extensive, intriguing and striking, and the historical context is crucially important to our understanding of Byzantine culture, social history and artistic output. The imagery explored is drawn from the fourth to the fifteenth centuries and encompasses media from manuscripts to mosaics and enamel. Part of the allure of this subject is that people do not associate childhood with Byzantium. Ernst Gombrich commented, 'who could find it easy, after a visit to Ravenna and its solemn mosaics, to think of noisy children in Byzantium?'. However, in Byzantium, patrons of art were often young, such as emperors who acceded to the throne as teenagers, and makers of art, sculptors, mosaicists, painters often began their training at an early age. How did this affect the creation, promotion and production of art? The study questions the definitions and perceptions of childhood, focusing on topics such as the family, saintly children and those associated with imperial power. Cecily Hennessy demonstrates that children are featured often in visual imagery and in key locations, indicating that they played a central role in Byzantine life, something which has previously been overlooked or ignored. In tackling this new subject she reveals important aspects of childhood, youth, and by extension adulthood in Byzantine society and raises issues that are also applicable to the present and to other historical contexts.

    Contents: Setting; Childhood; Family; Sanctity; Power; Jesus and Mary; Conclusions; Bibliography; Index.


    Dr Cecily Hennessy studied for her BA and MA in the history of art at the University of Washington in Seattle and went on to gain a Ph.D in Byzantine art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2001. She has taught at universities in the USA and the UK and was head of Short Courses and Adult Learning at the Courtauld Institute before joining Christie's Education as a lecturer in 2006.

    ’To my mind, this monograph's main contribution is that it brings to the fore the importance of age - the age of the persons represented, but also of the audience and the creators of art - as a valid, albeit up to now largely neglected, parameter of art-historical analysis of Byzantine works of art. This is cleverly done by looking afresh, through the lens of childhood and youth, at an array of familiar and much-discussed monuments, an array impressive in its wide chronological coverage and variety of the media considered. ... Indeed, this monograph is the first step towards a much needed coherent and comprehensive account of children and childhood in Byzantine art and will, I believe, serve as an inspiration for future work.’ - Medieval Review

    '... a significant contribution to the study of social life in Byzantium as mediated by diverse images of children and youth.’ - Journal für Kunstgeschichte

    '... ouvrage richement illustré et documenté...’ - Cahiers de civilisation médiévale

    'This is a very welcome book, as it brings into a single volume a large amount of visual evidence on Byzantine children.' - Speculum

    'Byzantium, argues Cecily Hennessy, was a society in which almost half the population was made up of those we would now call young people and in which representations of children were both widespread and centrally located. In her fascinating and stimulating book, Images of Children in Byzantium, she urges us to take off our adult spectacles and look at the Byzantine world with fresh eyes. Her work makes an important contribution to recent scholarly interest in Byzantine childhood and is well worth reading by those with a more general interest in the field, especially in relation to the premodern era.' - Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth