Ermak Elena

Why is Jonah awake? An interpretation of the early Christian sarcophagus from the British museum in the modern art history

Ermak Elena (2023) "Why is Jonah awake? An interpretation of the early Christian sarcophagus from the British museum in the modern art history ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia V : Voprosi istorii i teorii hristianskogo iskusstva, 2023, vol. 51, pp. 9-28 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturV202351.9-28


Although the sarcophagus No. 1957, 1011.1 is investigated in detail, to this day there are many questions in its study. In addition to the main problems facing the researcher in the study of early monuments the item has a unique iconographic solution: unlike other objects of this kind (3rd c.), the prophet Jonah, reproduced on the front wall, is represented awake. The authors put forward a number of hypotheses explaining this feature, but none of them is comprehensive. These aspects justify the choice of the monument as an object of study.A review of texts (2nd-4th cc.) and objects (3rd-5th cc.) showed that, probably, the Old Testament prophet is not literally represented in the relief, but rather an allegorical transmission of the theology of bodily Resurrection is presented. Although the early texts were only trying to comprehend the relationship between the image (εἰκών) and the Prototype (ἀρχέτυπον), nevertheless, perhaps understanding the images at that time could be more complicated and led to the formation of the theology of the image.


Keywords: early Christian sculpture, sarcophagi, the theme of the Resurrection, iconography, methodology, interpretation, image theory, modern art history


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Information about the author

Ermak Elena

Place of work: The State Hermitage Museum Russia; Saint-Petersburg University of the Humanities and Social Sciences;
Email: hel-erm@yandex.ru.