This study offers a close reading of the processes involved in crafting a Byzantine holy portrait by focusing on certain episodes in the Life of Nikon and the Life of Irene of Chrysobalanton, hagiographies dated to the eleventh century. The article argues that the anxieties of visual representation in Byzantium are encoded in those episodes in the narrative in which an artist prepares to make a saint's portrait. In the process, the episodes offer provocative ruminations on the relations between a representation and its prototype, words and images, sight versus hearing, and the roles of the artist and the viewer. They reveal that these issues were by no means resolved with the official end of Iconoclasm in 843, but remained vibrant arenas of philosophical and theological reflection well into the eleventh century.

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