It’s been a while since I’ve done anything related to Byzantium on this blog. Fortunately Robert Horvat is picking up the slack! He’s working his way through brief profiles of an incredible 500 objects of art, architecture and history associated with the Byzantine Empire, and some of the examples, as you’ll see in this article, are stunning. Here are ten relics of the Byzantines, nos. 51 through 60 on Robert’s list. Amazing stuff.

No.51 Harbaville Triptych, 10th century, Constantinople (Istanbul).

This is one of the most richly detailed ivories to come from a workshop in Constantinople. Just look at the detail of Christ’s throne as an example. It was made in the 10 th century, maybe even the 11 th century, and has been associated with the Romanos group of ivories.

The base relief figures depict Christ, John the Baptist, the Virgin and other saints and martyrs. Of interest, is the warrior saints depicted in the wings (inside doors), which might suggest that it was commissioned for a patron who was a member of the Byzantine army?

The Harbaville Triptych measures 11 inches x 9 inches (28 x 24cm) when fully opened. Currently located in the Louvre in Paris.


No.52 Barberini Diptych, 6th century, probably from Constantinople (Istanbul). Currently located in the Louvre, Paris.

Not another ivory I hear you say!

The triumphant Byzantine emperor on a rearing horse has often been identified as Justinian, or even possibly Anastasius or Zeno. Although some historians identify this ivory with Anastasius (because of the combination of pagan and Christian motifs), it is now generally agreed to be Justinian.

Putting that debate aside, this wonderful five-part ivory has almost every important image that is associated with imperial power. For example, we can see Nika, the goddess of victory, in the top corner, extending a crown to the emperor. Gaia, goddess of the earth, is holding the emperors foot possibly as a gesture of domination. Behind the emperor’s lance and in the bottom panel are cowering barbarians who submit and offer tribute to the triumphant emperor. Finally, a Roman consul on the left holds and offers a gift to the emperor (which was presumably matched by a second consul figure on the empty right panel which is now lost).


Read the Full Article: 501 Treasures of Byzantium: No.51-60.