Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine

Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine, mid-10th century, Ivory, 16.4×6.5 cm, Dumbarton
Oaks, Washington, DC, USA
http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27455

It was but recently the whole human race celebrated various ten-year periods for the great Emperor with festive banquets. It was but recently we ourselves hymned the conqueror with praises for his twenty years, taking the floor at the Council of God’s ministers. Just now we wove garlands of words also for his thirty years, in the very palace hardly yesterday to crown his sacred head. But today our thought stands helpless, longing to express some of the conventional things, but at a loss which way to turn, stunned by the sheer wonder of the amazing spectacle. Wherever it casts its gaze, whether east or west, whether all over the earth or up to heaven itself, every way and everywhere it observes the Blessed One present with the Empire itself… writes Eusebius PamphiliOn the Life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine back in the 4th century AD. Today, celebrating Emperor Constantine’s Name-Day, I present you a Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine from the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and wish every person named Constantine or Constantina… Health, Happiness, and Prosperity! http://archive.eclass.uth.gr/eclass/modules/document/file.php/SEAD260/%CE%95%CF%85%CF%83%CE%AD%CE%B2%CE%B9%CE%BF%CF%82%2C%20Life%20of%20Constantine%20%28trans.%20Averil%20Cameron%20-%20Stuart%20Hall%29.pdf

Emperor Constantine is often described as the most important emperor of Late Antiquity. His political and military acumen, foresight, and sagacity mark his rule as a significant pivot point between Ancient History and the Middle Ages. His reign was eventful and brutal, but his momentous decisions created a whole new world for Europe and parts of the Eastern Mediterranean… He legalized and supported Christianity, and he founded the “New Rome,” mythical Constantinople, the city that ruled supreme in beauty, and power, for a thousand years! Emperor Constantine, while alive, was revered and feared at the same time. He was the greatest of statesmen… he became a Saint of the Christian faith, and a shining example for Emperors to come into the world! https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/article/constantine

Originally in the Collection of the famed connoisseur of European paintings and of objects of fine art from many cultures, Count Grigory Sergeievich Stroganoff (1829-1910) of Rome, Paris, and St Petersburg, the Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine entered the Dumbarton Oaks Collection in 1947. The small ivory representation of a Saint dressed in Imperial attire, a loros wrapped around his body and a crown with pendilia, is identified with Emperor/Saint Constantine I (208?-337 AD). Along with his mother St. Helena, according to John Hanson of Dumbarton Oaks, also dressed in royal robes, these saints were often shown flanking a representation of the True Cross. In all probability, this is the case for the Dumbarton Oaks Ivory panel. It was the left-wing of a precious triptych..  http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27455

Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine (detail), mid-10th century, Ivory, 16.4×6.5 cm, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, USA
http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27455

There were no less than eleven Byzantine Emperors by the name of Constantine, the number rising to twenty-two if children and relatives with little or no independent power were added to the list. They all wanted to connect with the Empire’s founder and share his legacy. It is perhaps for this reason that the saint’s features resemble, as stated by John Hanson, the facial features of early 10th century Byzantine Emperors, the time when the Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine was created. If the identity of the emperor was specifically Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, the resemblance creates a complex sign of authority and sanctity, aligning the living emperor with his imperial namesake. https://www.persee.fr/doc/numi_0484-8942_2005_num_6_161_2594 and http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27455

For a Student Activity on the Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine, please… Check HERE!

Good Friday – Μεγάλη Παρασκευή

Book cover with a silver-gilt Spanish setting of a Byzantine Ivory Crucifixion, 10th century (ivory); late 11th century (setting), silver-gilt with pseudo-filigree, glass, crystal, and sapphire cabochons, ivory on wood support, Overall: 26.4 × 21.9 × 2.5 cm, the MET, NY, USA https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/464015

Today he who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon a Tree. He who is King of the Angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns. He who wraps the heaven in clouds is wrapped in mocking purple. He who freed Adam in the Jordan receives a blow on the face. The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails. The Son of the Virgin is pierced by a lance. We worship your Sufferings, O Christ. Show us also your glorious Resurrection. (Good Friday – Μεγάλη Παρασκευή Twelfth Antiphon – plagal fourth mode) http://www.hchc.edu/assets/files/CD/All_Creation_Trembled_ebook.pdf

Σήμερον κρεμᾶται ἐπὶ ξύλου ὁ ἐν ὕδασι τὴν γῆν κρεμάσας. Στέφανον ἐξ ἀκανθῶν περιτίθεται ὁ τῶν Ἀγγέλων Βασιλεύς. Ψευδῆ πορφύραν περιβάλλεται ὁ περιβάλλων τὸν οὐρανὸν ἐν νεφέλαις. Ῥάπισμα κατεδέξατο ὁ ἐν Ἰορδάνῃ ἐλευθερώσας τὸν Ἀδάμ. Ἥλοις προσηλώθη ὁ Νυμφίος τῆς Ἐκκλησίας. Λόγχῃ ἐκεντήθη ὁ Υἱὸς τῆς Παρθένου. Προσκυνοῦμέν σου τὰ Πάθη, Χριστέ. Δεῖξον ἡμῖν καὶ τὴν ἔνδοξόν σου Ἀνάστασιν/ (ΜεγάληΠαρασκευή Ἀντίφωνον ΙΒ΄ – ἦχος πλ. δ΄) http://www.hchc.edu/assets/files/CD/All_Creation_Trembled_ebook.pdf

Panel with a Byzantine Ivory Carving of a Crucifixion, 10th century, Ivory, the MET, NY, USA https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/464015

Byzantine Panels of Ivory Carvings were precious and treasured… just like the Ivory Panel in the MET coming from the Nunnery of Santa Cruz de la Serós in Spain. Set within an amazing gold frame of a Spanish goldsmith, the Byzantine Ivory Crucifixion Panel becomes an important testimony of Western admiration for the artistry of Byzantine craftsmanship, the high esteem accorded such Byzantine objects, and the cultural exchange, the artistic emulation, Byzantine artifacts initiated. The Glory of Byzantium, Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/The_Glory_of_Byzantium_Art_and_Culture_of_the_Middle_Byzantine_Era_AD_843_1261 p. 466

The Crucifixion plaque of Santa Cruz de la Serós originally formed the center of a Byzantine three-paneled icon. Typical to Byzantine Iconography, a Triumphant Christ stands erect on the Cross, his face serene, the eyes closed, his arms effortlessly horizontal, and his feet supported by a projecting platform. The “monumental” Cross in the center, seems to divide the compositional panel into 4 parts. The upper two smaller in size parts exhibit the sun and the moon, and two Angels. Standing under them, flanking the Cross, are the weeping Virgin Mary, and Saint John the Evangelist. They are both depicted holding a Book, an open one by Mary, and a bejeweled closed Book, by Saint John. Could the two represented Books be meant to remind the plaque’s viewer of Christ’s message of hope and redemption? https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/464015

The Metropolitan Museum Ivory is associated (by Goldschmidt and Weitzmann) with the Cortona Reliquary of the True Cross Ivory panel, and a collection of Ivory plaques known as the Nikephoros Group. These Ivories display simplicity of composition, stylistic homogeneity, rough but monumental style of carving, broad, blunt facial features, and rather large hands. The Nikephoros Group Ivories are dated to the middle of the 10th century because of an inscription on the back of the Cortona Reliquary of the True Cross Ivory panel mentioning emperor Nikephoros, most certainly the Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas (963-969). https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/The_Glory_of_Byzantium_Art_and_Culture_of_the_Middle_Byzantine_Era_AD_843_1261 p. 466

The MET Byzantine Ivory of the Crucifixion has been one of the many gifts to the Nunnery of Santa Cruz de la Serós, outside the royal capital of Jaca, which was founded by Queen Felicia (d. 1085), wife of Sancho V Ramírez (r. 1076–94), king of Aragon and Navarre. It entered the Metropolitan Museum Collection in 1917 as a gift from J. Pierpont Morgan. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/464015?&exhibitionId=0&oid=464015&pkgids=722 and https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/464015

A PowerPoint of all artworks presented for the Holy Week in the Greek Orthodox Church, 2022… is HERE!

Holy Monday – Μεγάλη Δευτέρα

Vienna Genesis, The Pharaoh’s Banquet, folio 17, page 34, (Cod. Theol. gr. 31), first half of the 6th century, Illuminated Parchment dyed purple, heightening in shell gold, with a text written in silver ink, 32.0×26.5 cm, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Austria https://onb.digital/result/10F14EEA

On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he held a feast for all his officials, and in their presence, he lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. Pharaoh restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.… (Book of Genesis, The story of Joseph, 40:20-22 – Holy Monday – Μεγάλη  Δευτέρα) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+40&version=NIV

Την τρίτη ημέρα λοιπόν, ο Φαραώ είχε τα γενέθλιά του και έκανε συμπόσιο για όλους τους υπηρέτες του και έφερε μπροστά τους τόσο τον αρχιοινοχόο όσο και τον αρχιαρτοποιό.  Και επανέφερε τον αρχιοινοχόο στη θέση που είχε ως οινοχόος, και εκείνος συνέχισε να δίνει το ποτήρι στον Φαραώ.  Τον αρχιαρτοποιό όμως τον κρέμασε, ακριβώς όπως τους είχε δώσει την ερμηνεία ο Ιωσήφ. (Γένεση, Η Ιστορία του Ιωσήφ, 40:20-22- Holy Monday – Μεγάλη  Δευτέρα) https://www.jw.org/el/%CE%B2%CE%B9%CE%B2%CE%BB%CE%B9%CE%BF%CE%B8%CE%AE%CE%BA%CE%B7/%CE%B1%CE%B3%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CE%B3%CF%81%CE%B1%CF%86%CE%AE-online/nwt/%CE%B2%CE%B9%CE%B2%CE%BB%CE%AF%CE%B1/%CE%93%CE%AD%CE%BD%CE%B5%CF%83%CE%B7/40/

Vienna Genesis, The Pharaoh’s Banquet, folio 17, page 34, (Cod. Theol. gr. 31), first half of the 6th century, Illuminated Parchment dyed purple, heightening in shell gold, with a text written in silver ink, 32.0×26.5 cm, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Austria https://onb.digital/result/10F14EEA

Andreas Fingernagel, Director of the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books

at the Austrian National Library, considers the Late Antique Codex theologicus graecus 31, the Vienna Genesis as of outstanding importance, an illuminated manuscript regarded and admired as a rare testimony of Late Antique art history. The manuscript, dated to the first half of the 6th century, consists of 48 preserved pages, written in Maiuscula Biblica in silver ink on purple parchment. It is illustrated with 48 miniatures produced in a city scriptorium of culture and sophistication like Antioch or Constantinople. It is one of the earliest known cycles of book miniatures from the Old Testament, a rare witness of Late Antique book culture. Since 1664, this magnificent codex has been preserved at the Imperial Court Library, today, the Austrian National Library in Vienna. https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/41206

Vienna Genesis, The Pharaoh’s Banquet (detail), folio 17, page 34, (Cod. Theol. gr. 31), first half of the 6th century, Illuminated Parchment dyed purple, heightening in shell gold, with a text written in silver ink, 32.0×26.5 cm, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Austria https://onb.digital/result/10F14EEA

According to research done in the early 2020s, the Vienna Genesis is the incredible work of 7 different artists. Scholars came to this conclusion, by looking into each artist’s style, iconography, colour palette, pigments, and dyes. All artists involved in the illumination of the Vienna Genesis were trained in creating rich, and lively paintings in an authentic Late Antique style, suited for the sophisticated liking of an imperial patron.  Painter E (folios 17–18, pages 33–36) has been identified as the artist who created the amazing miniature (folio 17, page 34) depicting The Pharaoh’s Birthday Banquet. This is a scene in the story of Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, celebrated during Holy Monday. https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/41206 pp. 232-235 and Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Age_of_Spirituality_Late_Antique_and_Early_Christian_Art_Third_to_Seventh_Century pp. 458-459

The Österreichische Nationalbibliothek of Vienna Digital Copy of the Vienna Genesis… Check https://onb.digital/search/324304

A PowerPoint of all artworks presented for the Holy Week in the Greek Orthodox Church, 2022… is HERE!

Lazarus Saturday – Σάββατο του Λαζάρου

Cup with the Raising of Lazarus (Christ holding a staff and Lazarus still  wrapped in his burial shroud), 4th century, Free-blown glass with wheel-cut decoration; very pale green, nearly colourless, 11.2 × 11.8 cm, Yale University Art Gallery, USA
https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/52562

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:1-3 – Lazarus Saturday – Σάββατο του Λαζάρου) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2012%3A1-8&version=NIV

Ο δε Ιησούς, εξ ημέρας προ του πάσχα ήλθεν εις την Βηθανίαν, όπου ήτο ο Λάζαρος, ο οποίος είχε πεθάνει και τον οποίον είχε αναστήσει εκ νεκρών. Παρέθεσαν, λοιπόν, εις αυτόν δείπνον εκεί και η Μάρθα υπηρετούσε. Ο Λάζαρος ήτο ένας από τους συνδαιτυμόνας. Εν τω μεταξύ η Μαρία επήρε μίαν λίτραν μύρου γνησίου και πολυτίμου, καμωμένου από το αρωματικόν φυτόν που λέγεται νάρδος, και άλειψε τα πόδια του Ιησού,  τα οποία και εσπόγγισε κατόπιν με τας τρίχας της κεφαλής της. Όλο δε το σπίτι εγέμισε από την ευωδίαν του μύρου. (Κατά Ιωάννην Ευαγγέλιον 12:1-3 – Lazarus Saturday – Σάββατο του Λαζάρου) http://www.imgap.gr/file1/AG-Pateres/AG%20KeimenoMetafrasi/KD/04.%20Ioan.htm

Cup with the Raising of Lazarus Lazarus (anonymous onlookers), 4th century, Free-blown glass with wheel-cut decoration; very pale green, nearly colourless, 11.2 × 11.8 cm, Yale University Art Gallery, USA
https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/52562

Lazarus Saturday, along with Palm Sunday, holds a unique position in the Church Calendar of the Greek Orthodox Church. They are days of celebration… before the days of sorrow that follow… The Raising of Lazarus of Bethany and the Entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem are both the most popular themes in Byzantine Art since the beginning of the Christian era.

Ever since I first saw the Yale University Art Gallery’s unique glass Cup with the Raising of Lazarus, at the Exhibition Age of Spirituality, as a university student at the time, I am enamored with it! I like its simple skyphos-like shape, slightly conical, and how very pale green, nearly colourless, it is. I like best, how it is decorated by wheel-cutting, a technique in which shallow cuts were made in the surface of a glass vessel by applying a rotating wheel of metal or stone covered with an abrasive material. This decorative technique… was used to create lines, geometric designs, or, as in this case, figural scenes. According to the Yale University experts, examples of glass items like the Yale glass cup, in which variously oriented groups of parallel cut lines create solid areas suggestive of anatomy, drapery, architecture, and landscape, are associated with glass-cutters working in Cologne, Germany. The Cup’s iconography is simple, yet powerful. Lazarus, still wrapped in his burial shroud, stands next to Jesus, who holds a staff in his left hand. The remaining four figures included in the scene are probably anonymous onlookers. In a typical Early Christian style, they are depicted between trees with highly flat, geometricized tops. Simply put… a magnificent piece! https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/52562 and https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Age_of_Spirituality_Late_Antique_and_Early_Christian_Art_Third_to_Seventh_Century pp. 444

Cup with the Raising of Lazarus Lazarus (anonymous onlookers), 4th century, Free-blown glass with wheel-cut decoration; very pale green, nearly colourless, 11.2 × 11.8 cm, Yale University Art Gallery, USA
https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/52562

A PowerPoint of all artworks presented for the Holy Week in the Greek Orthodox Church, 2022… is HERE!

Church of the Parigoritissa in Arta

Church of the Parigoritissa in Arta, 1294-1296, Arta, Greece
https://efaart.gr/portfolio/panagia-parigoritisa/

According to a popular Epirote legend… the anonymous “πρωτομάστορας” (master architect), commissioned to build the Church of the Parigoritissa in Arta was accomplished, famous, and much in demand! Hired to design plans for another church, while still working in Arta, the “πρωτομάστορας” was obliged to travel away, leaving his assistant in charge. The assistant, anonymous as well, was young, ambitious, innovative, and highly creative. He decided to change the original plans… implement a novel architectural proposal, and, in the process, created an original Church design we still admire today! Upon his return, the “πρωτομάστορας” was stunned, envious and… vengeful! He wanted revenge and he planned carefully… He tricked his unsuspecting assistant into climbing to the roof under the pretext that he was going to show him a mistake he made and then… the plan was, to push him over. But the plan did not materialize as wished! As the young assistant was falling, he grabbed the master-builder dragging him along to their death. The mother of the young assistant was devastated… but one night the Virgin Mary appeared to her dream and “την παρηγόρησε,” consoled her for her unjust loss. Mary’s consolation was considered a miracle and thus… the Church in Arta was called “Παναγία η Παρηγορήτισσα,” the Church of the Virgin Mary of Consolation. https://www.mixanitouxronou.gr/o-thrilos-tou-protomastora-pou-zilepse-to-epitevgma-tou-voithou-tou-ke-ton-dolofonise-panagia-i-parigoritissa-i-vizantini-ekklisia-tis-artas-me-ton-protoporiako-troulo-pou-eorite/

Ιn Arta the Parigoritissa Church is considered the city’s Αρχόντισσα… most Aristocratic edifice! Built on the western slope of Peranthis hill, the church is associated with the Komnenos Doukas ruling family of the Despotate of Epiros. Archaeologists discern 2 construction phases. The older 1st phase dates to the middle of the 13th century and is associated with Michael II Komnenos Doukas (1230 until his death in 1266/68 ruler of the Despotate of Epirus) and his wife Theodora Petraliphaina (canonized as Saint Theodora of Arta, ca. 1225 – after 1270). Recent archaeological discoveries show that large parts of its original masonry were preserved to a sufficient height and incorporated via various modifications for the construction of the church’s 2nd phase which materialized under the sponsorship of Nikiphoros I Komnenos Doukas (c. 1240-1297) and his wife Anna Palaiologina Kantakouzene (d. 1313). On the western wall of the main church, over the entrance, an inscription verifies the fact that the Parogoritissa church was founded in the period 1294-1296 by the despot of Epirus Nikephoros I Komnenos Doukas, his wife Anna Palaiologina Kantakouzene, and their son Thomas. The aspiration of the princely couple was to create a Metropolitan Church worthy of a Byzantine Capital, impressive and original in design, luxurious and imposing on its exterior and interior decoration!  http://www.peartas.gov.gr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=66:2011-06-15-08-30-45&catid=23:2011-06-10-06-28-51&Itemid=26

Thomas Smart Hughes, Travels in Sicily Greece, and Albania… Illustrated with engravings of maps scenery plans &c., vol. Ι, London, J. Mawman, 1820, Collection: Hellenic Library – Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation
https://eng.travelogues.gr/item.php?view=44972

The church of Parigoritissa was dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary and was formerly the Katholikon of a large Monastery, of which 16 cells and the Refectory are also preserved. It is one monumental, voluminous, cubic in essence (has dimensions of 20,30×22 m) building, which external masonry and design “elusively” resemble the Italian mansions of the Early Renaissance period. The exterior façade of the church is divided into three zones: The lowest one is irregularly built and unadorned because until 1865 it was covered by a portico, as evidenced by the existence of 12 pilasters on the three sides of the temple to support its roof. The two upper zones of the church are meticulously built according to the isodomic “cloisonne” system, adorned with a large number of double (dilova) windows with a colonnette in between, and further embellished with elaborate brick decorations. The Parigoritissa like many other churches in Arta, uses bricks and clay tiles in a variety of colours and designs, to decorate their walls with designs like meanders, concentric rhombuses, and toothed strips to name just a few. Finally, the church is crowned by five domes, from which the central one is larger and taller. Among the two western domes, there is a smaller, open dome, which gives the impression of a ciborium. http://www.peartas.gov.gr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=66:2011-06-15-08-30-45&catid=23:2011-06-10-06-28-51&Itemid=26 and https://issuu.com/efaartas/docs/parigotitissa_arta_fylladio_32sel

Church of the Parigoritissa in Arta (Keramoplastika), 1294-1296, Arta, Greece
https://www.greekgastronomyguide.gr/ena-24oro-stin-arta/

For an interesting 3D Video on the Byzantine city of Arta and its Monuments created by the Greek Ephorate of Antiquities of Art, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vZ6fVBDzj0

For interesting Photographs, go to… https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/parigoritissa

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

My thoughts on the interior architectural plan and decoration of the Parigoritissa Church will be presented in another BLOG POST…

Visiting the Parogoritissa with my students…
Photo Credit: Kostas Papantoniou

Byzantine Girdle

Marriage Belt, 6th-7th century, Gold, 4.8×75.5 cm, Byzantine Collection, Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington DC, USA
https://www.doaks.org/resources/bliss-tyler-correspondence/art/bz/BZ.1937.33.jpg/view

That which her slender waist confin’d, / Shall now my joyful temples bind; / No monarch but would give his crown, / His arms might do what this has done.     /     It was my heaven’s extremest sphere, / The pale which held that lovely deer, / My joy, my grief, my hope, my love, / Did all within this circle move.     /     A narrow compass, and yet there / Dwelt all that’s good, and all that’s fair; / Give me but what this ribbon bound, / Take all the rest the sun goes round… wrote Edmund Waller, back in the 17th century… and I imagine another slender waist confin’d  by a Byzantine Girdle, masterfully created back in the 6th or the 7th century… https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45437/on-a-girdle

The Gold Byzantine Marriage Belt at Dumbarton Oaks is small, but lo and behold, it’s luxurious and precious, unique, and ever so beautiful! It combines Christian and pagan iconography… two large medallions depicting Jesus uniting a young couple as they clasp each other’s right hand, in a gesture, known as the dextrarum iunctio, that had been part of the Roman marriage rite, and twenty-one small medallions that contain busts of pagan figures: all men, some draped, several bearded, others with leaves in their hair, a few holding the thyrsos—a staff associated with Dionysos—and some a caduceus, the rod of the god Hermes/Mercury. Framing the central, Marriage scene, is the inscription, “From God, concord, grace, health.” http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27445

Marriage Belt (detail), 6th-7th century, Gold, 4.8×75.5 cm, Byzantine Collection, Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington DC, USA
http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27445

The fascinating aspect of the Dumbarton Oaks marriage belt is how the artist combined the “sacred with the profane…” Jesus blessing the young couple, with Dionysus and his male entourage. The combination of Pagan and Christian traditions in early Byzantine marriage art is captivating. The presence of Christ uniting the young couple in the larger, central two disks was apparently a popular practice in wedding belts and marriage rings. There is a similar second belt at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, and numerous variations on marriage rings to testify to the fact. What the Dumbarton Oaks experts find challenging is the integration of non-Christian figures with the Christian scenes. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010256506 and http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27445

Marriage Belt (detail), 6th-7th century, Gold, 4.8×75.5 cm, Byzantine Collection, Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington DC, USA
http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27445

It is also interesting to read the actual Epithalamic Poem by Dioscorus of Aphrodito dedicated to Count Callinicus… τον περίβλεπτον κόμετα Καλλίνικον… Bridegroom, may your wedding be filled with the dancing of the Graces; may it ever seek the help of Wisdom after Beauty. You are marrying a bride who is an enviable Ariadne, silver-sandaled Theophile wreathed in gold. (May your marriage) have the scent at once of love and of wisdom. Gold has embraced gold, and silver has found silver. You raise up the honey-sweet grape cluster, in its bloom of youth; Dionysus attends the summer of your wedding, bearing wine, love’s adornment, with plenty for all, and blonde Demeter brings the flower of the field. . . . They have woven holy wreaths round your rose-filled bedroom. Like splendid Menelaus, but more tawny colored, follow your Helen, a wife who will not leave you. And afterwards you shall see dear children on your lap, like both your excellence and your wife’s to look upon. I wish a famous painter would accurately depict your lifelike image, with his craft to work your beloved likeness, whose bright beams flash with joy like the moon. Your young body has surpassed prize-winning Bellerophon, and your beauty is that of measureless excellence. To judge impartially, you have outdone Achilles and Diomedes, and easily outstripped Ares and brave Herakles. Be gracious to me in my awe of you, so I may sing your song: I came sailing on my voyage, inspired by your measureless excellence. Not in a worldly sense . . . https://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft0m3nb0cs;chunk.id=d0e3949;doc.view=print -88-

If you are interested in discovering how the Dumbarton Oaks Marriage Belt ended in the renowned Washington DC Museum, please click HERE! and read the correspondence between Mildred and Robert Bliss and Royall Tyler between September 1937 and August 1938. It is a fascinating story… https://www.doaks.org/resources/bliss-tyler-correspondence/letters#b_start=0&c1=Marriage+Belt

The astonishing Tapestry of Dionysus at Abegg-Stiftung

Dionysos and his entourage standing underneath arcades lavishly decked out in climbing foliage and braided ornaments, Egypt, 4th century, wool tapestry on a linen ground, h. 210 cm, w. ca. 700 cm, Abegg-Stiftung, Canton Bern , Switzerland
https://twitter.com/Pythika/status/1141411261286146048/photo/1
https://abegg-stiftung.ch/en/
https://twitter.com/caitlinrgreen/status/616963854870970368?lang=el

[1] I begin to sing of ivy-crowned Dionysus, the loud-crying god, splendid son of Zeus and glorious Semele. The rich-haired Nymphs received him in their bosoms from the lord his father and fostered and nurtured him carefully [5] in the dells of Nysa, where by the will of his father he grew up in a sweet-smelling cave, being reckoned among the immortals. But when the goddesses had brought him up, a god oft hymned, then began he to wander continually through the woody coombes, thickly wreathed with ivy and laurel. And the Nymphs followed in his train [10] with him for their leader; and the boundless forest was filled with their outcry.    /    And so hail to you, Dionysus, god of abundant clusters! Grant that we may come again rejoicing to this season, and from that season onwards for many a year. The Homeric Hymns 26 on Dionysus is, I believe, a wonderful introduction to The astonishing Tapestry of Dionysus at Abegg-Stiftung, my new BLOG POST… Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Homeric Hymns. Cambridge, MA, 1914, Harvard University Press, https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0138%3Ahymn%3D26

Regretfully, I never visited the Abegg-Stiftung, this amazing “cultural” center where the collection, conservation and study of historical textiles take place. Abegg-Stiftung is based just outside the village of Riggisberg in the foothills of the Bernese Alps, which is where the museum of textiles and applied art, the research library and the Villa Abegg, the Abeggs’ former home that is now a museum, are situated. The studio for textile conservation and restoration is also a training centre for budding young conservators. The Abegg-Stiftung publishes books and papers in which it shares its research findings with fellow historians and conservators as well as a lay readership. Year after year, its annual exhibitions shed new light on a material that has served humanity for thousands of years, whether made up into objects of everyday use or in the form of exquisite works of art. What an amazing place to visit and learn! https://abegg-stiftung.ch/en/

Dionysus and his entourage standing underneath arcades lavishly decked out in climbing foliage and braided ornaments (Museum Room View), Egypt, 4th century, wool tapestry on a linen ground, h. 210 cm, w. ca. 700 cm, Abegg-Stiftung, Canton Bern , Switzerland
file:///C:/Users/aspil/Downloads/ulfl202121_tm_Anexo%20(4).pdf

Among their rich collection of textiles from Late Antiquity, the visitor is astounded by grand and small examples showing figures from Graeco-Roman mythology and scenes from the Old Testament. What really fascinates me is the “Dionysus Hanging,” a monumental tapestry originally that served as a wall hanging in a Roman private home or cult building. The tapestry’s programme shows Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and ecstasy, and his entourage standing underneath arcades lavishly decked out in climbing foliage and braided ornaments. The cult of Dionysos was widespread in Late Antiquity. It promised its adherents life after death and was an articulation of the desire for a life of happiness and superfluity. https://abegg-stiftung.ch/en/collection/late-antiquity/

Dionysos and his entourage standing underneath arcades lavishly decked out in climbing foliage and braided ornaments (Detail), Egypt, 4th century, wool tapestry on a linen ground, h. 210 cm, w. ca. 700 cm, Abegg-Stiftung, Canton Bern , Switzerland
https://abegg-stiftung.ch/en/

An Abegg-Stiftung much-appreciated traditionis its dedication in publishing books and papers in which their experts share their research findings with fellow historians and conservators as well as a lay readership. Among the Museum’s rich List of Publications (for German readers) is a book titled Der Dionysosbehang der Abegg-Stiftung by Dietrich Willers und Bettina Niekamp, Riggisberger Berichte 20 | 272 S., 200 Abb., 32 Tafeln, 1 Falttafel, brosch., 23 x 31 cm, 2015, ISBN 978-3-905014-53-2 https://abegg-stiftung.ch/en/publication-category/riggisberger-berichte-en/

I was able to download Dietrich Willers’s Zur Begegnung von Heidentum und Christentum im spätantiken Ägypten – Der Dionysosbehang der AbeggStiftung (Schweiz) and read in Google translation… http://kgkw.de/Vortrags-Skripte/Willers/KGKW%20Willers.pdf  

Preparing for this BLOG POST I reread pp. 35-38 of Textiles of Late Antiquity, a 1995 Metropolitan Museum of Art Publication, and Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt, an Exhibition Catalogue of 2020, organized by the George Washington University Museum, The Textile Museum, and Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. https://museum.gwu.edu/woven-interiors-furnishing-early-medieval-egypt  

For a Student Activity on The astonishing Tapestry of Dionysus at Abegg-Stiftung, please… Check HERE!

Dionysos and his entourage standing underneath arcades lavishly decked out in climbing foliage and braided ornaments (Detail), Egypt, 4th century, wool tapestry on a linen ground, h. 210 cm, w. ca. 700 cm, Abegg-Stiftung, Canton Bern , Switzerland
https://abegg-stiftung.ch/en/