The Condemnation of Avarice as “Demonic Instigation” in the Illustrations of Synodics of the Early Modern Period
Keywords:Old Russian manuscript, book miniature, demonological plot, homily
This article examines visual methods of condemning avarice, which makes a person who wants a luxurious life for themselves and their family easy prey to the devil. The study refers to a series of illustrations for the parable About the Spendthrift, which was part of the literary prefaces to the Russian Synodics of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries whose task was to morally instruct the reader. While there is a noticeable increase in Russian and international researchers’ interest in the Old Russian Synodics, the issue considered in the article has not been addressed in scholarly publications yet. This article aims to reconstruct the miniaturists’ approach to illustrating a short text with a demonological plot, whose content should be interpreted and supplemented by a parallel visual story. The object of the study – book miniatures – predetermines interdisciplinary research and the use of philological and art criticism hermeneutical methods. The research refers to illustrations for the parable About the Spendthrift from the Synodics of the Trinity and St Daniel Monastery from 1672 and Solba St Nicholas Pustyn of the eighteenth century. They are vivid examples of two versions of the iconography of the illustrative series: one that gravitates towards the Russian mediaeval manuscript tradition and one that reproduces the figurative structure and style of the engravings of the Synodic by Leonty Bunin, respectively. The results of the study are based on a comparison of the key episodes of the literary plot of the parable and the visual narrative of the same events. The author concludes that in the miniatures, the desire to “teach through pictures” is traced, and the expressiveness of methods of the homily is not inferior to the book text but surpasses it. Both versions of the iconography of the miniature series tell the same instructive story about sin and punishment. It differs from many other illuminated parables of Synodics as in it, an important infernal person is present, which introduces an unusual nuance into the narrative.
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