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Illuminating the Dura-Europos Baptistery: Comparanda for the Female Figures

From: Journal of Early Christian Studies
Volume 20, Number 4, Winter 2012
pp. 543-574 | 10.1353/earl.2012.0035



This essay reconsiders the identifications and interpretations of two of the paintings from the Dura-Europos baptistery: a woman at a well on the southern wall and the procession of women on the eastern and northern walls. Previously unheralded artistic and textual comparanda provide support for alternative identifications of the baptistery's female figures. This essay offers new reasons why the woman at a well could be interpreted as the Virgin Mary, and the procession of women could be interpreted as the wise and foolish virgins of Jesus' parable. In the end, though, it will provide rationales for polysemic interpretations of these figures.

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