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Can an object be defined as votive solely based upon the presence of an inscription? Does relying upon such a definition restrict a more multivalent analyses of objects thus identified as votive? In this thesis, I examine the most prevalent practice used by scholars to identify votive offerings in the Middle Byzantine period – relying upon an object's accompanying inscription. This study focuses on those objects inscribed with a particular invocation – one that uses the word boethei. I demonstrate that we cannot rely on this inscription alone to identify an object as votive. It is rather the combination of many elements, including medium, iconography, patron and function that contribute to this identification and which enable us to more clearly understand the multivalent messages conveyed by these objects. In Chapter One, I turn to the context with which votive is most often associated – sacred. With each object I consider whether it is or is not votive and how the inscription contributes to that identification. In Chapter Two I examine objects inscribed with boethei that were intended for use or display in a secular context. While the objects discussed in Chapter One can be identified as votive, those discussed in this chapter cannot be so labeled. What then does the inscription mean in a secular context? In Chapter Three I present one object as a case study. I examine aspects of its production including inscriptions, patronage, iconography and function to argue that identifying a votive object requires a multivalent analysis of all its components. I show that, in this case, the patrons created a unified program of text, iconography and relics to convey their hope for salvation through perpetual prayer. I demonstrate that when all of these components are considered, we find a more precise message than what is explicitly stated in the inscription itself.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Art History in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts.
Includes bibliographical references.
Lynn Jones, Professor Directing Thesis; Michael Carrasco, Committee Member; Richard K. Emmerson, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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