MASTERPIECES OF THE BYZANTINE ART (9th - 14th c.)
FROM THE LOUVRE IN "VELIKI PRESLAV" ARCHAEOLOCICAL MUSEUM
20.06 - 05.11.2018
The exhibition includes artefacts from the Artwork department of the Louvre. Most of the items date back to the period 9-th – 12-th century when the development of applied arts in the Byzantine Empire was at its height and the workshops in the imperial court produced their masterpieces. During that period the influence of Constantinople over the various kinds of art was exceptional not only within the empire but also far away from it. The opulence that flowed to the capital (taken from the depleted provincial regions) and the wealth of the imperial court were unattainable for many rulers in Europe and Asia. The imperial workshops created artworks of the highest quality that were the perfect examples of the small forms of art. The high artistic value of some of the artefacts in the exhibition (the icon of the triptych with the image of Christ Pantocrator, the medallions with cloisonné enamel and the ceramic tiles with the polychromatic decoration) let us know that they were produced by the imperial workshops in the capital of the Byzantine Empire.
The capturing of Constantinople by the crusaders and the creation of the Latin Empire (1204-1261 г.) led to the decline of many forms of applied arts. But the loss of the capital supported the development of the local centres. However, even after the Byzantine Empire was re-established in 1261 and although the art of painting, mosaic art and architecture blossomed at the time of the Palaiologos dynasty most of the applied arts never experienced the same progress.Despite this, the traditions of the Byzantine art can be traced back even after 1453when the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople.
The two tiles come from still undiscovered workshops for painted and glazedwhite clay ceramics from the region of Constantinople, Nicomedia or Nicaea (nowadays Istanbul, Izmit and Iznikin Turkey). The similarities with the marble and limestone reliefs that were part of church altar barriers suggest that the tiles with the images of a peacock and a rosette are parts of the ornamentation of the iconostasis or templon (a barrier between the altar and the nave in the church space).Sixteen icons (nowadays preserved in the Walters Art Museum and the Louvre) support this idea as they contain the same elements - round medallions around the images, amber background (imitatinggold), and heart-shaped leaves at the corners.
The triptych plaque was acquired by the Louvre in 1828, and had come from the collection of the French painter and art collector Pierre Revolal (1776-1842). It depicts a frontal half-length image of Christ Pantocrator (All-sovereign) who is giving his blessing with his right hand and holdinga book in his left one.The holes in the four corners testify that the plaque had been a central part of а triptych.The Virgin Mary and John the Baptist togetherwith the image of Christ form the Deesis (Supplication) composition on the side wings or maybe there were other saints. The image of Christ Pantocrator from the Louvre is almost identical to twootherimages on similar objects - from the Fitzwilliam and Hermitage Museums. The iconographic and stylistic similarities of these three ivory icons suggest that they were made by a single artist or a single workshop in the Byzantine capital.
The medallion ispart of the collection ofthe French politician Victor Guy (1885-1904)that was donated to the Louvre in 1909.It shows an archangel with a circular halo around the head holding a sceptre in his right hand and a globe in his left one. The image is depicted on a background of emerald green enamel (typical for the Byzantine cloisonné enamel from the 9th century - the first half of the 10th century). The medallion probably originates from one of the book covers in the Treasury of St. Marks Basilica in Venice. The enamel from the book cover belongs to the same group as the enamel on the crown ofEmperor Leo VI (886-912) which dates them back to the end of the 9th century - the beginning of the 10th century. Constantinople was probably the place they were produced in.
The medallion was purchased by the Louvre in 2004. It probably functioned aspart of an icon frame decoration and it shows abust-length image of Christ Pantocrator with a cross nimbus. Christ is depicted giving a blessing with his right hand and holding a gospel with a richly decorated coverin his left one. The letters IC XC (Jesus Christ) with abbreviated titles on both sides can be seen.The image is set on a golden background, which is typical for the Byzantine cloisonné enamel since after the mid-10th century. The high quality ofthe artifact suggests it was produced inthe capital workshops in Constantinople.
The crossreliquary comes from the region of Kyustendil, Bulgaria. Nowadays only its front halfispreserved. There used to be two tabs for a hinge (that provided the joining of both halves) on its upper part and one tab on the bottompart. Jesus Christ is presented in the center, in full-length, standing on a supendium (a pedestal or a decorated pillow, an attribute ofroyal power)with a cross nimbus around his head. He is giving a blessing with his right hand and holding a book in his left one. The letters IC XC (with titles above them)are engraved on one side of Christs shoulders.Bustlength images of the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist pointing to Christare shown on the right and left shoulder of the cross. The images are accompanied by inscriptions: MP ƟV and IW. A bust of a saint with an inscription ƟEOΔ / OPO (C) is visiblein the upper end of the vertical shoulder. The facial features are erased but the haloes around the heads are still visible. On the inside of the cross shoulder and the bottom part of the vertical shoulder, a nine-line Cyrillic inscription describes the relics,kept in the cross (see below). It proves the Bulgarian nationality of the owner and engraver of the inscription.
The bracelets were part of the collection of the French byzantologist Gustav Schlumberger (1844-1929) that was bequeathed to the Louvre by the holder. They probably originate from the territory of present Bulgaria. They are made by forging on a matrix and further engraving. They consist of two semi-cylindrical parts assembled by means of hinges and decorated with images ofPersian mythology beings that are often found in the Byzantine and Islamic art: simurghs, a horseman, birds and lions enclosed in round medallions. The images are framed with geometric and floral motifs.
The cup was acquired by the antiquarian Manolis Segredakis in 1936 in Paris and later donated to the Louvre. It refers to the group of vessels from Thessaloniki and / or Constantinople. A foot soldier with a helmet, a shield and a spear is depicted on the inside of the bowl. The image is made by cutting with a blade on the white slipware coating.