Studies on the Importance of the Cornucopia Motif in Byzantine Art and the Aniconic Decoration of the Wall Paintings of Cappadocia RegionMetin Kaya
It is understood that the cornucopia motif, which originated in Ancient Greece, has influenced the art of many civilizations until today, especially the Roman, Byzantine, early Islamic, European and Ottoman (especially the early 18th-early 20th century ranges) artworks and it was used for the same meaning and purpose since the beginning. In addition, the studies revealed that the description of this motif as empty or full does not cause any difference in meaning, however, it is generally depicted as filled with fruits. In this article, we have identified the cornucopia motifs in the aniconic decoration of the wall paintings of nine rock churches and a rock-cut monastery monk cell, which we have examined in detail with their definitions and descriptions, and different usage examples in Byzantine art connected to their chronological framework. In addition to all these, regarding the examples we have encountered in the region, we have also emphasized how the cornucopia motif is positioned in the buildings, its decoration features, its sacred and symbolic meanings, and the relationship between architecture and art.
Bereket Boynuzu Motifinin Bizans Sanatında ve Kapadokya Bölgesi Duvar Resimlerinin Anikonik Bezemesindeki Yeri ve Önemi Üzerine DeğerlendirmelerMetin Kaya
Kökeni Eski Yunan’a dayanan ve Roma, Bizans, erken İslam, Avrupa ve Osmanlı (özellikle erken 18. yüzyıl– erken 20. yüzyıl aralığında) başta olmak üzere günümüze kadar birçok medeniyetin sanatına tesir etmiş olan bereket boynuzu deseninin sanat eserlerinde, ilk kullanımından itibaren aynı anlam ve amaçla tercih edildiği anlaşılmaktadır. Ayrıca bugüne kadar yapılan çalışmalar bu motifin içinin boş ya da dolu olarak betimlenmesinin de herhangi bir anlam değişikliğine yol açmadığını genellikle de içinin meyvelerle dolu olarak tasvir edildiğini ortaya koymuştur. Bu makalede Kapadokya bölgesinde dokuz kaya kilisesinin ve kayaya oyulmuş bir manastır keşiş hücresinin duvar resimlerinin anikonik bezemesinde tespit ettiğimiz bereket boynuzu motifleri ayrıntılı olarak tanım ve tasvirleri ile incelenmiş ve kronolojik çerçevede Bizans sanatındaki farklı kullanım örnekleri de belirlenmiştir. Tüm bunların yanı sıra bereket boynuzu deseninin bölgede karşılaştığımız örneklerinde yapı içerisinde nasıl konumlandırıldıkları, bezeme özellikleri, kutsal ve simgesel anlamları, mimari ve resim programı arasındaki ilişki üzerinde de durulmuştur.
Abundance has been an important concept in every period of human history since the period of Homo Erectus (1.5 million years ago). We encounter this concept frequently in the Old Testament, which may also have a theological basis for the use of the cornucopia motif in Christian art.
It is understood that the cornucopia motif, which originated in Ancient Greece has influenced the art of many civilizations until today, especially the Roman, Byzantine, early Islamic, European and Ottoman (especially the early 18th-early 20th century ranges) artworks, and it was used for the same meaning and purpose since the beginning. In addition, the studies revealed that the description of this motif as empty or full does not cause any difference in meaning, however, it is generally depicted as filled with fruits.
An example of the cornucopia motif in Byzantine art for the early period appears in a spiral form in the decoration of the porphyry sarcophagus (354-260), which is considered to belong to Rome Santa Constanza in the Vatican Museum in Rome. A similar piece is present on a sarcophagus in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. This motif can be seen in the mosaic decoration we have encountered in the portico vault of the Santa Costanza Mausoleum. In the Great Palace Mosaics (450-550), the spiral acanthus emerging from the stylized cornucopia connects with the hair and beard of the Oceanus figure. Studies have been indicating that the cornucopia motifs are present on the impost headings of the Church of St. Polyeuktos (524-527) displayed at the Istanbul Archeology Museum today. And some other pieces as; cornice decorations on the column headings, pedestals and banister slabs that date back to the 6th century are also displayed at Istanbul Archeology Museum.
In the research we have carried out it has been detected that the cornucopia motifs seen in the aniconic decoration of the wall paintings of the Cappadocia region, which is our main subject, are seen in a monastery monk cell and nine rock churches date back to the 9th century.
The finding of cornucopia motifs in; “Göreme Avcılar Kelebek Church No. 8 (9th century), apsis of Göreme Karşıbucak (Karşıbecak - Theotokos - Göreme Avcılar No. 3) Chapel (9th century), Kızılçukur Yohakim and Anna Church (9th century) south chapel barrel vault surface, Ihlara Agacaltı Church (9th century) western cross arm barrel vault south half, Meskendir St. Paul-Pierre Church (9th century) flat ceiling cover, in Kızılçukur Monastery Monk Cell arch, Kızılçukur Üzümlü Church (Hermitage Niketas the Stylite) (9th century) nave barrel vault surface, Ürgüp/Mustafapaşa Hagios Basilios Church (9th century) south apse, Güzelöz No. 3 (Mistikan) Church (9th century) in the center of the barrel vault surface, and Cemilköy Keşlik Monastery H. Stephanos Church (9th century) apse front, flat ceiling cover wall” was carried out by us. Among these examples, the motif was used in combination with the heartshaped stylised palmettes curving inside only in the Ihlara Ağaçaltı Church (9th century). It is understood that there is a change in the use of color on cornucopia motifs depending on the color scale of the churches in which they are depicted.
In Kızılçukur Üzümlü, the motif found on all four sides of the cross in the middle on the narthex and naos barrel vault surface of the Nicetas Church`s (9th century) cornucopias is slightly cracked. Just at the tip of a cornucopia, a stylized vine leaf appears in a spiral form with vine branches and grape bunches. The tips of the stylized vine leaves on a yellow background are dark reddish brown with black contours.
Unlike the examples we have encountered so far, in the Ihlara Ağaçaltı Church (9th century), the motif seen on the surface of the western half of the barrel vault south half of the exempt cross plan structure consists of two cornucopia motifs slightly curved on both sides and a single cornucopia extending down from the lower part of the intersection of the two cornucopias. This motif is unlike what we have used to see in wall painting motifs in the region. It has a unique appearance with its style. There are two intertwined circle motifs in red-brown on the tips. It is white with black contours on a light blue background.
Among the examples we can identify, the motif is used as a decoration element in the Byzantine period wall paintings of the Cappadocia region and mainly applied with spiral vine leaves and grape bunch motifs, it is preferred on large surfaces (the only example in the border is in the Kızılçukur Monastery Monk Cell arch) and it is mostly in a spiral form, except for the example in the Ağaçaltı Church (9th century). Therefore, it is understood that when painting the church, the artist or artists tried to fill the space, they didn’t want to leave empty, in addition to aesthetic concerns, and even painting the spiral cornucopia in architectural structures such as the barrel vault, flat ceiling covers and semi-dome apse makes us think about the possibility of trying to expand the size to cover large areas. In addition to all of these, the fact that the cornucopia motifs are depicted in the region in high locations, in the areas we have mentioned above is also related to its sacred and symbolic meaning.
As a result, the cornucopia motifs we encounter in Byzantine art are a reflection of the Byzantine art traditions. The cornucopia, which was used fondly in decoration with or without figures in ancient Greek and Roman art, found its place especially, in the aniconic decoration of the early Byzantine period.
In this article, we have identified the cornucopia motifs in the aniconic decoration of the wall paintings of nine rock churches and a rock-cut monastery monk cell, which we have examined in detail with their definitions and descriptions, and different usage examples in Byzantine art connected to their chronological framework. In addition to all these, regarding the examples we have encountered in the region, we have also emphasized how the cornucopia motif is positioned in the buildings, its decoration features, its sacred and symbolic meaning, and the relationship between architecture and the wall painting program.