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Article

L. James

(b ?Constantinople, c. ad 461–3; d Constantinople, c. 527–9). Byzantine patron. As the great-granddaughter of Galla Placidia and daughter of Flavius Anicius Olybrius (Emperor of the West, reg 472) she was the last major figure of the Theodosian house. In 512, during a popular uprising against Emperor Anastasius I (reg 491–518), the imperial crown was pressed on her husband Flavius Areobindus Dagalaifus, an honour he avoided by flight. Her imperial connections and social standing gave her an important status at court and she was an active patron. She is chiefly remembered for the Dioskurides codex (Vienna, Österreich. Nbib., med. gr. 1), which was produced in Constantinople c. 512 (see Early Christian and Byzantine art, §I, 2, (ii)). The inscription around her portrait (fol. 6v) indicates that the manuscript was commissioned for her by the people of Onoratou, a suburb of Constantinople, in gratitude for a church she built for them....

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In the 20th century, discussion of the relationship between Byzantine art and the art of the Latin West evolved in tandem with scholarship on Byzantine art itself. Identified as the religious imagery and visual and material culture of the Greek Orthodox Empire based at Constantinople between ad 330 and 1453, studies of Byzantine art often encompassed Post-Byzantine art and that of culturally allied states such as Armenian Cilicia, Macedonia, and portions of Italy. As such fields as Palaiologan family manuscripts and wall paintings, Armenian manuscripts, and Crusader manuscripts and icons emerged, scholars identified new intersections between Western medieval and Byzantine art. Subtle comparisons emerged with the recognition that Byzantine art was not static but changed over time in style and meaning, although most analyses identified Byzantine art as an accessible reservoir of the naturalistic, classicizing styles of antiquity. Scholars considering the 7th-century frescoes at S Maria Antiqua and mosaics at S Maria in Cosmedin, both in Rome, and the 8th-century frescoes at Castelseprio and Carolingian manuscripts such as the Coronation Gospels of Charlemagne (Vienna, Schatzkam. SCHK XIII) used formal comparisons with works such as pre-iconoclastic icons at St Catherine’s Monastery on Sinai, along with the history of Byzantine iconoclasm, to argue for the presence of Greek painters in the West. Similarly, Ottonian and Romanesque painting and luxury arts, such as ivories, provided examples of the appropriation of Byzantine imperial imagery. Yet the study of works such as the great 12th-century ...

Article

Alison Manges Nogueira

Monumental, marble paschal Candlestick of the late 12th to early 13th century with reliefs signed by Nicolaus de Angelo and Vassallettus now in S Paolo fuori le Mura, Rome. The imposing column (h. 5.6 m), adorned with six registers of reliefs and surmounted by a fluted candle holder, rests upon a base of sculpted lions, sphinxes, rams and female figures. The upper and lower reliefs bear vegetal and ornamental patterns while the three central registers portray Christ before Caiaphas, the Mocking of Christ, Christ before Pilate, Pilate Washing his Hands, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension. The culminating Easter scenes reflect the paschal candle’s function during the Easter season as a symbol of Christ resurrected, as evoked in an inscription on the base. A second fragmentary inscription refers to the unidentifiable patron’s desire for commemoration. A third inscription identifies Nicolaus de Angelo as the master sculptor and Petrus Vassallettus as playing a secondary role. Both were active in the second half of the 12th to the early 13th century and came from leading families of Roman sculptors: the Vassalletti and Cosmati (Nicolaus’s family). The candlestick is the only work signed by and securely attributed to Nicolaus and the scope of his contribution remains uncertain. A plausible theory attributes the base and first register to Petrus, based upon similarities to works signed by him and ascribed to his family, such as the cloister of S Giovanni in Laterano in Rome and the narthex of S Lorenzo fuori le Mura in Rome. Nicolaus probably executed the Christological scenes, distinguishable for their more dynamic, expressive figures and decorative chisel work, and appropriate for the master sculptor because of their centrality and significance. Early Christian sarcophagi and Carolingian ivories may have provided models for the figural types. This form of paschal candlestick was probably inspired by Roman columnar monuments carved with triumphal scenes....

Article

Charles Murray

[Flavius Valerius Constantinus]

(b Naïssus [now Nish, Serbia], c. ad 285; reg 306–37; d Constantinople, 337).

Roman emperor and patron. He was the son of Constantius Chlorus (reg 293–306) and Helena (c. 248/9–328/9) and succeeded his father as Co-Emperor in ad 306. Six years later he defeated his rival Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge outside Rome and became sole ruler in the West. In 313, with Licinius (reg 307–24), the Eastern Emperor, he published the Edict of Milan, which openly favoured Christianity. He defeated Licinius at the Battle of Chrysopolis in 324 and united the Empire under his control. Artistic and literary sources during his reign show an imperial policy dominated by the newly authorized religion, and new artistic values gradually transformed public art into a more fully recognizable Christian form. He believed that his military successes were attributable to the Christian God, whose sign of the Cross had appeared to him, superimposed on the sun, at the Milvian Bridge. In the final battle he ordered the monogram of Christ to be painted on his soldiers’ shields, thus establishing the cross and the chi-rho in later iconography. His victory was commemorated in 315 with the construction of a triumphal arch in the Roman Forum....

Article

Eirene  

L. James

(b Athens, c. 752; reg 797–802; d Lesbos, 803). Byzantine empress and patron. On the death of her husband, Emperor Leo IV (reg 775–80), she acted as regent for their son Constantine VI (reg 780–97). In 796 she had him blinded and took sole power as the first woman in recorded European history to be acknowledged as a sovereign monarch. Her proposed marriage with Charlemagne would have united the two empires. She was responsible for the restoration of images in Orthodox worship after their destruction and removal during the first wave of iconoclasm (726–87; see Christianity §III 2., (i)). On her own initiative and against the hostility of the iconoclast church and imperial administration, in 787 she convened the Seventh Ecumenical Council at Nicaea (now Iznik), which suppressed iconoclasm, although it was to break out again in 814.

Despite Eirene’s patronage of monasteries and churches, there seems to have been little artistic activity during her reign. She was, however, probably responsible for reinstating the image of Christ above the Chalke Gate of the Great Palace at Constantinople (...

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(b Venice, 1373; reg 15 April 1423–23 Oct 1457; d Nov 1, 1457).

Venetian ruler and patron. He was the longest-serving doge in the history of Venice. His reign was a period of constant warfare, during which Venice consolidated her hold on her mainland possessions and acquired further territory. His only surviving son, Jacopo Foscari (c. 1416–57), a celebrated humanist, was three times disgraced for alleged corruption. After his son’s final banishment and death, Francesco was persuaded by the Council of Ten to abdicate. He died a week later and was given a full ducal burial in the church of S Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice. His tomb monument (for illustration see Bregno, (1)) in the same church, probably executed either by Niccolò di Giovanni Fiorentino or by members of the Bregno family, was erected at the instigation of the doge’s grandson Niccolò Foscari. Its mixture of Gothic and Renaissance elements echoes the hybrid character of public art and architecture during his reign....

Article

Thomas E. Russo

(b c. ad 575; reg 610–41; d Constantinople [now Istanbul], 11 Feb 641). Byzantine emperor and patron. Although it is sometimes claimed that Heraklios was of Armenian descent, contemporary sources record his family origins in Cappadocia. His father was the exarch of Carthage. In 610 Heraklios usurped the imperial throne from the tyrant Phokas (reg 602–10) and thus initiated the rule of the Heraklian dynasty which lasted until 711. He and his first wife Eudoxia (d 612) had two children, Epiphania and Heraklios, the latter of whom later became Constantine III (reg 641). After the death of Eudoxia, Heraklios married his niece Martina, who bore him ten children.

A competent military leader, Heraklios defeated the Persians at Nineveh in 627. He is often credited with the reorganization of the provinces into administrative units called themes, but whether or not this institution originated under Heraklios is debatable. References in contemporary sources to scientific treatises on chemistry and astrology by Heraklios suggest that he was well educated....

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Susan Pinto Madigan

In 

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Kara Hattersley-Smith

(reg 565–78; d Constantinople [now Istanbul], 4–5 Oct 578).

Byzantine ruler and patron. He was a nephew of Justinian I and his successor; his wife Sophia (before 530–after 600) was the niece of Justinian’s wife Theodora (d 548). Sophia had considerable influence over Justin and with the onset of his attacks of insanity persuaded him to appoint his successor, Tiberios I (reg 578–82). Although few datable works survive from his reign, literary sources indicate that Justin commissioned numerous buildings, sculptures and smaller objects. Sophia was influential in most of these projects and was the first empress to appear on Byzantine coins with the emperor. Among the small objects attributed to the couple are the cross of Justin II (Rome, Vatican, Mus. Stor. A. Tesoro S Pietro; see Cross §III 1., (i)) and a reliquary of the True Cross, which was sent to Radegund, Queen of France (d 587); it has been identified by some with an enamelled plaque framing a Byzantine cross (Poitiers, Ste Radegonde). Statuary and buildings (largely destr.) erected by Justin in Constantinople included a group of statues placed at the harbour of Sophia depicting ...

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[Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Justinianus]

(b Tauresium, nr Naissus [now Nish, Serbia], c. ad 482; reg 527–65; d Constantinople, Nov 15, 565).

Byzantine ruler and patron. He was a nephew of Emperor Justin I (reg 518–27), upon whose accession he was brought to Constantinople. He was prepared for political power by receiving the rank of comes illustris and according to contemporary sources he was the real power behind the throne during Justin’s reign. In 521 he became consul and in 523 he married Theodora (d 548), who was to exercise considerable influence over him. He became Emperor on 4 April 527. Among his most lasting achievements was the codification of laws in the Corpus juris civilis, which he issued in 534. The most closely analysed aspect of his reign, however, is his artistic and architectural contribution during what has become known as the first golden age of Byzantine art.

Justinian aimed at the restoration and revival of the empire by re-establishing its political and religious unity. His imperial triumphs included the reconquests of Africa and eastern Spain from the Vandals (534) and Italy from the Ostrogoths (535). These events were recorded in two works of art (both lost): the ceiling mosaic in the Chalke Gate of the Great Palace (...

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Barbara Zeitler and Susan Pinto Madigan

[Komnenian dynasty; Comnenian dynasty]

Line of Byzantine emperors and art patrons (1057–1185). The Komneni were prolific builders and commissioned numerous works in a variety of media. Alexios I Komnenos (reg 1081–1118) and Manuel I (reg 1143–80) both made additions to the Great Palace (see Istanbul §III 12.) and to the Blachernai palace at Constantinople. Literary sources speak of their decoration as elaborate and influenced by Islamic art; one building in the Great Palace was entirely designed in Seljuk style. Wall paintings and mosaics celebrating imperial exploits and conquests became particularly popular in Manuel’s reign, and are known to have adorned the walls of his palaces. Manuel’s patronage also extended to the Holy Land, where he paid for parts of the decoration of the Holy Sepulchre and, together with King Amalric of Jerusalem, financed the mosaic decoration of the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (1169).

Among the most important examples of Komnenian ecclesiastical architecture are the Monastery of Christ Pantokrator, founded by John II (...

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Barbara Zeitler, Paul Magdalino and Susan Pinto Madigan

Line of Byzantine emperors and art patrons (867– 1056). The dynasty was founded by (1) Basil I, whose family had settled in the military and administrative zone of Macedonia; it became extinct on the death of the empress Theodora (reg 1042 and 1055–6) in 1056. The earlier Macedonian emperors from Basil I to (3) Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus took an active part in the artistic renewal that followed the end of iconoclasm, and this has given rise to the concept of a 9th- to 11th-century ‘Macedonian Renaissance’; but contemporary sources offer little evidence in support, and the military emperors of the late 10th century and the early 11th, Nikephoras Phokas (reg 963–9), John Tzimiskes (reg 969–76) and Basil II (reg 976–1025), were not active patrons of art. Moreover, the characteristics usually associated with an artistic renaissance such as creativity, progress or close study of the art of antiquity are scarcely to be found in the Macedonian period (see Walter). Such claims as have been made for a revival of Classical art (see Weitzmann) have largely been based on a small number of manuscripts and ...

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Barbara Zeitler

Byzantine imperial dynasty of patrons. Between the reigns of Michael VIII (reg 1259–82) and Constantine XI (reg 1449–53), the empire underwent a last flowering of Byzantine art; at the same time there was a marked change in patterns of patronage. Constrained by financial difficulties, the imperial family was no longer the most important patron of the arts, although the artistic patronage exercised by women of the Palaiologan dynasty is notable. Courtiers and wealthy individuals were the major patrons of the period, for example Theodore Metochites (1270–1332) and Michael Theodore Doukas Glavas Tarchaneiotes, who respectively commissioned large parts of the decoration in Christ the Saviour in Chora (see Istanbul §III 3., (ii)) and in the church of St Mary Pammakaristos (see Istanbul §III 7.). The majority of the imperial commissions appear to date from before 1320, but losses since that time may have distorted our knowledge of Palaiologan patronage. Little has survived of the luxury arts; metalwork, for instance, was frequently made into coins. Among Palaiologan ecclesiastical foundations is the south church of the monastery of Constantine Lips (now Fenari Isa Cami) in Constantinople (now Istanbul), which was built between ...

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L. James

(b Constantinople, c. ad 388 or 393; d Rome, 450).

Late Roman empress and patron. She was the daughter of Theodosius I the Great and half-sister to the Emperor Honorius (reg 395–425). She was brought up in Constantinople and Rome, from where she was taken hostage by the Visigoths during the sack of 410, and was married to their leader Athaulf in 414. On his death the following year, she was returned to her own people and in 417 reluctantly married her brother’s Master of Armies, who was to become Constantius III (reg 421). After quarrelling with Honorius, she fled to Constantinople, but on his death her son Valentinian III (reg 425–55) was installed as Emperor in the West by the eastern armies. At first her influence was dominant, but she was unable to stop the increasing power of Aetius (c. 391–454), and by 438 she had been forced into virtual retirement.

Placidia’s building works reflect the piety she apparently gained while in exile in Constantinople. In Rome she commissioned the mosaics in S Paolo fuori le mura, of which only one piece survives, though much restored, above the triumphal arch. Her preference, however, was for the new court city at Ravenna, which she adorned with several ecclesiastical buildings. One building to have survived intact is the so-called Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (...

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(b Paphlagonia, c. ad 810; d after 867).

Byzantine empress and patron. She was selected as the wife of the iconoclast Emperor Theophilos (reg 829–42) in a beauty contest in 829. She was strongly attached to the worship of images and unsuccessfully tried to soften Theophilos’s persecutions. At his death she took over as regent for their son Michael III (reg 842–67) and governed through her favourites. With the support of her ministers, she began a reversal of iconoclasm and a general restitution of images. Although less resistance was encountered than during the first period of iconoclasm under Eirene, Theodora progressed slowly, careful to maintain her own position. Exiles and prisoners were released and icons, frescoes and mosaics restored, including the image of Christ at the Chalke Gate of the Great Palace (see Istanbul §III 12.). Many of the major monumental restorations, however, took place after Theodora’s deposition in 856, and there was no instant redecoration of churches, although the ...

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S. J. B. Barnish

[the Great]

(b Cauca [now Coca], Spain, c. ad 346; reg 379–95; d Milan, Jan 17, 395).

Roman emperor and patron. His father, Count Theodosios, was executed in 376 under Valens (reg 364–78), but in 379 Gratian (reg 367–83) proclaimed Theodosios emperor of the eastern empire. In a series of campaigns he contained the invading Goths and crushed two rivals in the west: Magnus Maximus (reg 383–8) and Eugenius (reg 392–4), who was supported by leading pagans in the Roman aristocracy. He was a devout Nicene Christian and persecutor of heretics and was much influenced by St Ambrose of Milan (c. 339–97), who forced him to do penance for his massacre of between 7000 and 15,000 people in the Hippodrome at Thessaloniki in 390. He abolished sacrifices and confirmed the disendowment of pagan cults but gave some legal protection to statues and temples as works of art. In 384–8, however, he permitted his fanatical minister Cynegius to tour the eastern provinces destroying temples. The empire was by then becoming firmly Christian, and the resulting flowering of Christian literature, art and architecture is known as the Theodosian Renaissance. At Rome he and his co-emperors began the construction of ...