The Footprint of Mani’s Book of Pictures in Late Antique Sources: An Assessment of Social & Geographical Data about Teaching with Images During the 3rd and 4th Centuries

Recorded: March 1, 2021
Event: Pourdavoud Center Workshop - Current Trends in Manichaeism Studies

by Zsuzsanna Gulácsi (Northern Arizona University)

Zsuzsanna Gulácsi, Professor of Art History at Northern Arizona University
Unlike other religions, Manichaeism had canonical images, not just canonical texts. Primary and secondary textual sources document that the Manichaean canon included a solely pictorial volume—a picture book—that was authored by Mani, circulated in multiple copies already during Mani’s life, and issued in many later editions. From late antiquity, 13 passages mention the Book of Pictures (Copt. Hikōn, Syr. Yuqnā, Parth. Ārdhang, MPers. Nigār). They convey that Mani commissioned its images to be painted as visual aids for teaching. The goal of this study is to assess who had access to this pictorial volume of the canon and where it was used during the first 120 years of Manichaean history. Mapping this data reveals the geographic footprint of teaching with images among the followers of Mani.