Byzantine art has a reputation for being less based in diagrams than Western medieval art. The present essay reassesses this view from the standpoint of Trinitarian diagrams. Embroiled in debate with Catholic scholars, Greek theologians, from the 11th century onwards, began articulating their understanding of God with the aid of schematic drawings. Some writers even reinterpreted trinitarian icons in light of their diagrams. Discussing two of the most common iconographical types, The Old Testament Trinity and New Testament Trinity, the paper proposes that Greek viewers likely saw these images as arguments disputing Latin theology.
Justin Willson studies Byzantine and Slavic art at Princeton with Professor Charles Barber and Professor Beatrice Kitzinger. He is interested in traditional questions of iconography and reception as well as in theories of aesthetic value in the Middle Ages. His dissertation investigates how art was understood in Muscovy during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. His research has been published in Journal of the History of Ideas, Res: Anthropology & Aesthetics, and Studies in Iconography.