Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia
The depiction of the Heavenly Jerusalem was one of the most common iconographical motifs in the design of early-medieval censers. The source of this iconography is quite obvious — and is the appearance Theophilus suggests in his treatise. However, except for a few examples, most craftsmen did not follow Theophilus’ iconographical programme, often leaving out figures of prophets and apostles.
This makes the censer from the collection of the Lille Fine Arts Palace (Inv. A. 82) even more interesting. It is decorated with small figures, but the subject is not the one Theophilus mentions. On the top of the censer, there are figures of the Three Hebrews in Fiery Furnace, a story common in medieval art, not previously seen on the censers. Perhaps the artist was inspired not only by the theological problems, but also by the visual effects that would appear during the service. The maker of the censer rejects building-like shape in favour of a round form (the latter might be subject to Byzantine influences).
The paper will focus on possible sources of the censer’s iconography, and also on ways in which scenes from the Scripture shift from one type of minor arts to another, and the changes that appear in their looks and, possibly, their meanings. Censers, which, mostly because of their size, do not bear any extensive iconographical programme, remain a somewhat underinvestigated typology of medieval art.