Reflecting this fact, and not surprisingly, many of the narrative scenes in early Italian art cited previously in this essay further demonstrate that a single arched or domical covering might serve more than one purpose.
For example, the domical funerary baldachins above Christ's prostrate body in the two representations of the entombment specified earlier, on the painted crosses designated as Uffizi number 432 and Pisa number 20, also suggest the offering of His transubstantiated substance at a church altar (fig.
The dedication and presentation narratives on the Madonna and Child in Moscow by a follower of the Master of the Bardi Saint Francis present two instances of this, for the domical canopy in each not only indicates the location of these events at the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem, but also hints at the eventual enthronement in Heaven of both Mary and Jesus.
Enthronement is more obviously the meaning of the domical baldachin sheltering Nero in the fall of Simon Magus and also that filling the space between Christ and Peter in the consignment of the keys of Heaven, both on the Magdalene Master's Yale dossal (fig.
As was true for actual tombs, altars, and thrones, in all of these narrative scenes and many similar ones, whether they evince multivalent interpretations or not, the fundamental point to bear in mind is that an arched or domical canopy was intended to shelter and concentrate attention upon a particular person or object worthy of high regard, even reverence.
Thus, in Italian narrative art, the sanctity of and reward for effecting such benevolent acts could best be signaled by the presence of an arched or domical canopy.
Among the ancient Romans, central-plan tombs built above ground level with domical ceilings were not uncommon in some regions, including Italy, Egypt, Israel, and Syria, in all cases harboring the remains of persons surely of some means even if not necessarily illustrious status.
He established that "domical traditions" were widespread throughout the ancient world and long predated the technologies required for sophisticated timber, brick, and masonry domes; that the fully developed cupola "derived from primitive habitations"--houses, tents, and other shelters with curved roofs--with "ancestral and ritualistic" associations; and that those associations carried deep "mortuary, divine, royal, and celestial meanings." (48) Baldwin Smith drew the domical tents of Central Asiatic nomads along with ancient South Asian huts and shrines of similar form into his discussion of the origins of such traditions.
Commencing again with reflections in figural art, the second type of narratives from the dugento and trecento commonly set within or before an arched or domical aedicule comprises depictions of events taking place at an altar.
(59) Whatever the present state of the evidence for individual examples, however, regardless of variations among them reflecting regional and period styles, and irrespective of whether the location of a particular altar within a church called for a baldachin that was fully in-the-round or abutting a wall, it is clear that from the beginning, ciborium designers preferred arched if not fully domical forms.
Baldwin Smith was certainly correct in maintaining that originally the Ark was akin to the domical, early Arabic qobba tent mentioned previously, which beyond its use as a grave marker served individual groups among those nomadic peoples as a portable clan emblem and, comparable to a Christian altar ciborium, as a sanctuary for that clan's divinities in their material aspect.
See also ibid., 13 and passim (on the link between the martyrium with its relatively small dome and the larger dome of the East Christian church building); 36-37 (on the domical elements in the narratives portrayed on the Stuma and Riha patens, figs.