Emperor Justinian and His Attendants

Topics: Mosaic, Byzantine Empire, Justinian I Pages: 3 (1047 words) Published: May 7, 2012
Emperor Justinian and His Attendants

Introduction and Identification
The image I chose to write about is called Emperor Justinian and His Attendants. A mosaic dating back to 547 CE, it is found within the church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. The material used in creating the piece is glass, known as tessarae, set in plaster. (Davies 246) The scene is one of two which flank the altar of the church. The other image is Empress Theodora and Her Attendants.(Davies 254) It is unknown who the artist was behind “Emperor” (the piece was likely from an imperially run workshop), but that won’t stop our understanding of this work. Formal Analysis

There are many different, unique qualities within this image. To start with, the entire composition is quite cramped. There are eleven men who are at least partially visible, if not fully visible, within the scene. They include members of clergy, the emperor Justinian himself, officials and guards. The figures are all, “very different from the squat, large-headed figures […] in the art of the fourth and fifth centuries.” These men are all very tall, yet they all have eye-levels that are almost exactly the same. Their bodies are slender, faces are all quite similar and they all present small feet. To an uninformed person it might look as if these large-eyed men are all related to one another. The entire image also has a seemingly “flat” feel to it. Though the artist intended there to be some perception of depth because of the overlapping men and their differing heights, they all have the same forward-facing stance and gaze. They almost feel like cardboard cut-outs in the way that they have no differing poses other than full-frontal. Also, though the drapery effects in their clothing are handled well - with shadows clearly defined and used effectively on the robes of the clergy members, for example - the way the supposed cloth falls from the shoulders of the subjects shows no bodily definition from underneath. Historical and...

Cited: Davies, Denny, Hofrichter, Jacobs, Roberts, Simon,
Janson’s History of Art: The Western Tradition. Seventh ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2007.
Ferguson, “Justinin And Theodora.”
http://www.stockton.edu/~fergusoc/lesson4/jump6.htm (accessed November 1, 2010).
Rhodes, Kent. “Medieval Italian Art.” April, 2003.
http://campus.queens.edu/faculty/rhodesk/medieval_italian_art.htm (accessed November 1, 2010).
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