Jackson Pollock, a great American painter of the 20th century, established a distinct way of painting that produced a major impact on the world of art. Moreover, monks represented one of the most literate segments of the population of late antique Egypt. That literacy is typically attributed to the insistence in the Pachomian cenobitic tradition on teaching monks to read. In fact monastic education that was steeped in scripture and theology rather than the classics of Greek and Latin literature of worldly education helped to create and sustain a predominantly scriptural perspective across all monastic practice.E.g., H. Lundhaug, Memory and Early Monastic Literary Practices: A Cognitive Perspective,” Journal of Cognitive Historiography 1, no. 1 (2014): 98-120. On this scripturalism, see D. Burton-Christie, The Word in the Desert: Scripture and the Quest for Holiness in Early Christian Monasticism (New York, 1993). As concerns Apollo’s monastery, Alain Delattre has established the literacy of the monks during the period when the painted programs were made, noting evidence including formal inscriptions in paintings (such as the dipinti accompanying portraits as well as more extensive texts like those on the unrolled scrolls displayed by depicted prophets) and visitors’ prayers later written on the walls (including painted walls) of assembly rooms, cells, and other buildings.A. Delattre, Intellectual Life in Middle Egypt: The Case of the Monastery of Bawit (Sixth-Eighth Centuries),” in Christianity and Monasticism in Middle Egypt: Al-Minya and Asyut, ed. G. Gabra and H. N. Takla (Cairo, 2015), 15-19. Most of the literary excerpts known from the site were found on walls rather than on papyri or on, 17, notes that among the documentary papyri and ostraca are the references to kathegethai (that is, professors or schoolmasters). School exercises were written on walls at Apollo’s monastery—Room 18 seems to have been used as a school—as they were in nonmonastic schoolrooms, like that of the fourth century CE found recently at Amheida (ancient Trimithis), in the Dakhleh Oasis: R. Cribiore, Multifunctionality of Spaces in a Late Roman House in Egypt,” in Public and Private in the Roman House and Society, ed. K. Tuori and L. Nissin (Portsmouth, RI, 2015), 149-59, esp. 150-52. Delattre argues as well that a schoolbook attributed to the site even allows the reconstruction of the students’ curriculum at Apa Apollo’s monastery.Delattre, Intellectual Life,” 18. The schoolbook has been attributed to the site. Written in Coptic, it contains passages from a homily by Basil the Great as well as scriptural quotations and a saying. In consequence, the wall paintings should not be seen as mere picture books for the illiterate; rather, as I show below, they carried on a tradition of books about illustrious men—some with painted portraits—for the literate wall-painting programs supported an intellectual environment that could be as deeply textualized” as it was pictorial. I borrow the term from Leslie MacCoull to register similarity to the densely inscribed spaces of the monastery of Epiphanius in western Thebes (founded late sixth century): L. S. B. MacCoull, Prophethood, Texts, and Artifacts: The Monastery of Epiphanius,” GRBS 39, no. 3 (1998): 316.
Moreover, dressing Antony in a himation—the garment worn by the apostles—was certainly a means of presenting him as apostolic to encourage the emulation of devout monastic the clothing of disciples of Christ, see, e.g., Zanker, Mask of Socrates, 315. On emulation in visual devotion, see Thomas, Mimetic Devotion,” and on this aspect of mimesis as Pauline (and belonging to a Greco-Roman tradition that Paul inherited), see E. A. Castelli, Imitating Paul: A Discourse of Power (Louisville, KY, 1991). For Pauline mimesis and John Chrysostom, see M. M. Mitchell, The Heavenly Trumpet: John Chrysostom and the Art of Pauline Interpretation (Louisville, KY, 2002). In addition to Mitchell’s discussions of mimesis being transformative when correctly performed, see the richly evocative passages in P. C. Miller, The Corporeal Imagination: Signifying the Holy in Late Ancient Christianity (Philadelphia, 2009), 60 and 87. On the philosophical context of Christian mimesis, see B. Stefaniw, A Disciplined Mind in an Orderly World: Mimesis in Late Antique Ethical Regimes,” in Metapher – Narratio – Mimesis – Doxologie: Begründungsformen frühchristlicher und antiker Ethik, ed. U. Volp, F. W. Horn, and R. Zimmermann (Tübingen, 2016), 235-56. He is also presented as emulating the apostles and as a figure for emulation in the Life attributed to noted, e.g., by several articles in Hägg and Rousseau, Greek Biography, including A. Cameron, Form and Meaning: The Vita Constantini and the Vita Antonii,” 81 (emulation), and Rousseau, Antony as Teacher,” 90 (Antony taking up Christ’s call to the apostles) and 97 (Antony saying that the pagan philosophers should imitate him). In that text and this image, the himation retains positive associations with wisdom, moral authority, pedagogy (even by the barely lettered, as Athanasius had represented Antony in his biography), and learned men of the , e.g., A. P. Urbano, Sizing Up the Philosopher’s Cloak: Christian Verbal and Visual Representations of the Tribon,” in Upson-Saia, Daniel-Hughes, and Batten, Dressing Judeans, 175-94, esp. 187-88 (true philosophy” in Chrysostom and Tertullian), 184 (pedagogy and moral authority), and 192 (identification with figures of the past). Aptly put at 193: The decorative program of the so-called Orthodox, or Neonian, baptistery in Ravenna (dated to the mid fifth century) shows how image-clothing could saturate liturgical space, creating an aura of wisdom and binding the liturgical actors to the sages of the past.” Of course, depicting Antony in the himation in the painted portrait could have elicited memory of the gift from Athanasius as well.