Bulletin du Musée National de Varsovie — 28.1987

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Tadeusz Dobrzeniecki


The collection of the National Museum in Warsaw includes a wali painting of St. Anne from
the Faras Cathedral (Nubia), where it was preserved in fragments on the North wali of the
North aisle at a height of three metres (Fig. 1).

The image of St. Anne is ranked as a masterpiece of Nubian painting, however, its original
iconography has not been studied. Only Kazimierz Michałowski pointcd out to some characte-
ristic motifs in his description of the surviving painting: „the lay-out of the hand with tapering
fingers, the forefinger placed on the mouth in a gesture indicating silence"1.

A three-part majuscule inscription in Greek surrounds St. Anne'shead: 7) ayia x(ai) Ma...
/Awa 7j (j.vjT7)p/ T7]ę ^eotok [ou] (St Anne, mother of the Mother of God Theotokos)"-. S. Jako-
bielski reconstructed the inscription in a different way: ('H ayia) Awa 7] (i.7jr/]p Tirję $eo-zox.[oQ
7) ayia x(ai) Map [... (St. Anne, Mother of the Mother of God, Saint and...). The state of preser-
vation of the text in the left vertical register admits two possible interpretations of the inscription
and the image, namely: I. Anne with Infant Mary; II. Saint and mother of Mary = Mariatokos
(after the Theotokos pattern)3.

Frontal official representation4 of the ruler was the binding principle observed in Roman
Imperial art; this is evidenced by the major state monuments: Theodosius I's Missorium and
the base of the Emperor's obelisk in Constantinople5.

Christian art early picked up this type of representation and applicd it to Christ and Theotokos
(Fig. 2)7, and later also to saints.

Likewise in the image of St. Anne from Faras, surviving in fragments, the representational
formuła, originally applied to the entire figurę, can be observed. It has a somewhat earlier
counterpart in the wali painting of St. Anne ivith Infant Mary in the Roman church of Sta. Maria
Antiqua (Fig. 3)7.

1. K. Michałowski, Faras. Die Kathedrale aus dem Wiistensand, Zurich-Kóln, 1967, p. 109, pl. 27; the same, Faras, Malwidla
ścienne w zbiorach Muzeum Narodowego w Warszawie, Warszawa, 1974, p. 78—80, Fig. 1.

2. J. Kubitiska, „Inscriptions greegues chretiennes" in: FARAS IV, Warszawa, 1974, p. 122, Ns 62, Fig. 56.

3. G. Giamberardini, „II culto mariano in Egitto nei primi secoli", Studia orientalia Christiana, XII, 1967; the same, „II
'Sub tuum praesidium' c il titulo Theotokos nella tradizione egiziana", Marianum, XXXI, 1969, p. 324—362 ; Th. Klauser,
„Rom nnd Kult der Gottesmutter Maria. 1. Erfindung des T/ieofofcos-Pradikats fiir Maria und seine Anerkennung durch
das Konzil von Ephesus (430)". Jahrbuch fiir Anlike und Christentum, XV, 1972, p. 120—126; the same, s.v. „Gottesge-
barin (Theotokos)" Reallexikon fiir Antike und Christentum, XI, 1981, col. 1074—1077.

4. K. Wessel, „Frontalitat" in: RealIexikon zur byzanlinischen Kunst, Stuttgart, 1970, II, col. 586—593.

5. Madrid, Royal Academy: V. F. Volbach, Fruhchristliche Kunst, Die Kunst der Spatantike in West-und Ostrom, Miinchcn,
1958, Ns 53, 54—55.

6. See the diptyque of Christ and the Virgin-T/ieofo/ios, Constantinople, middle of the 6th century; Berlin, Staatliche Mu-
seen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Fruhchristlich-Byzantinische Sammlungen; The Age of Spirilualily, Late Antiąue and
Early Christian Art. Third to Seventh Century, Catalogue of tbe exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, November
19, 1977, througb Fcbruary 12, 1968, New York, p. 528—30, JN4 474.

7. E. Kitzinger, Byzantine Art in the Making, Cambridge, 1977, p. 116, Fig. 217 (the whole figurę), 203 (detail).

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