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art christian daniel’s life

The life and visions of Daniel, one of the four major *prophets, are described in the Old Testament book which bears his name. According to the book of Daniel and related *Apocrypha, Daniel was captured by soldiers and taken to the court at Babylon, where he remained throughout his life (during the reigns of *Nebuchadnezzar, *Belshazzar, and Darius). He became increas- Page 62  ingly renowned for his prophetic gifts and interpretation of dreams. His series of dramatic visions, recorded in the text, both prefigured and contributed to later apocalyptic writings and imagery

Several scenes from Daniel’s life appear with some frequency in early Christian and medieval art. The episode of his ordeal in and miraculous rescue from the lions’ den is one of the earliest subjects found in Christian art and remained popular through the Middle Ages. Daniel was twice condemned to the lions: when he was accused of disobeying a religious edict of King Darius, and later, when he was credited with having caused the *death of a sacred dragon. Apocryphal additions relate that the prophet *Habakkuk (informed by the archangel *Michael) brought food to Daniel in the lions’ den. Darius was convinced of *God’s power by Daniel’s remarkable survival and subsequently had the courtiers who plotted against Daniel thrown to the lions. A related incident of miraculous salvation (when Daniel’s three companions survived their ordeal in the *Fiery Furnace) was also very popular in early Christian art, as were the stories involving *Susanna (apocryphal additions to the end of the book of Daniel).

As a symbol of faith, salvation, and a prefiguration of *Christ’s *Resurrection, Daniel appears on early Christian sarcophagi, in catacomb frescoes, in Romanesque and Gothic manuscript illustration, and frequently in Romanesque and Gothic architectural sculpture. He is usually accompanied by lions; the motif of a human figure between confronted animals has antecedents in ancient near eastern art and mythology.

Daniel, Samuel (1562–1619) - BIOGRAPHY, CRITICAL RECEPTION [next] [back] Dangerous Child (2002) - Overview, Synopsis, Critique

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