In 2007 Bissera Pentcheva recorded in a short video the animation of the Byzantine golden relief icon of the Archangel Michael at the treasury of the basilica of San Marco in Venice. The film showed how the shadows created by a moving candle changed the expression of the face and infused the eyes of the angel with movement. The study opened a new path of exploration of “liveliness” in medieval art. “Liveliness” defines animation as a phenomenon and not a form: a sense of life elicited by changes in the ambient light and sound that transform the perception of the otherwise static image into a dynamic, breathing presence, confronting the viewer. “Liveliness” is thus set in opposition to the traditional art historical concept of “lifelikeness,” which explains the success of the image in terms of the modeling of its form in imitation of a living prototype. If “lifelikeness” is about pictorial and sculptural naturalism captured through imitation, “liveliness” is about the cinematic, temporal effects and their spatial installation and activation.
EnChanted Images employs the same methodology developed in the 2007 project to explore the temporal liveliness of the golden imago of Ste. Foy. But, the new study also goes a step further and enters in the domain of the imagination, addressing how the medieval poetry and music written for the Office of Ste. Foy shape the dynamic presence of the saint. The art historical project thus starts with the material––the physical statue–– and proceeds with the interdisciplinary to uncover the complexity of the imaginary, internalized image stimulated in the multisensorial theater of the liturgy.