ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Byzantine Art: Manuscripts and Ivories

Updated on April 29, 2013
Vienna Genesis
Vienna Genesis | Source


The three most important Byzantine manuscripts of the late 5th or the 6th century are the Vienna Genesis (Imperial Library, Vienna), the Rossano Gospels (Cathedral of Rossano, Italy), and the Sinope Gospels (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris).

The Vienna Genesis is on purple vellum with silver lettering. The vivacious scenes, set at the bottom of each page, have many Byzantine details of costume and ceremony. Several successive events shown in a single picture preserve something of the "continuous narration" style, familiar from the relief on the Column of Trajan, Rome.

In the Rossano Gospels, also in silver on a purple ground, the miniatures may take a full page, or the top half of a page where the lower half is filled with four half-length figures. The figures are quieter and more dignified than those in the Vienna Genesis. The arrangement of the scenes, already standardized by the 5th century, persisted in Byzantine art for hundreds of years.

The Sinope Gospels are written in gold on purple. Here the miniatures are at the bottom of the page, flanked by two half-length figures rising out of what might be pulpits. In this manuscript, perspective, atmosphere, and setting are avoided even more persistently than in the mosaics of San Vitale.

The throne of Archbishop Maximian.
The throne of Archbishop Maximian. | Source


The most important surviving masterpiece of Byzantine ivory carving from the First Golden Age is the throne of Archbishop Maximian (mid-6th century) in the Cathedral of Ravenna. Its side panels have scenes from the life of Joseph in the narrative style. The Scythian or Sarmatian dress of Joseph's guards indicate contact with Asia, as do the tiaras (like those of Persian kings) worn by the sons of Jacob. The Egyptian headdresses of the merchants, and the very choice of the story of Joseph, suggest Egyptian influence. Five panels on the front of the throne show St. John the Baptist and the four evangelists. The figures are stiff, and the drapery is conventionalized. The main scenes and figures are framed by vine patterns, within whose scrolls appear peacocks, deer, lions, and other decorative motifs.

Another masterpiece of Byzantine ivory carving is the panel of an archangel in the British Museum, probably from the 6th century, though dated by some scholars as 4th century. The figure stands on a flight of steps with a staff in his left hand and an orb in his right. The drapery, more classical than Byzantine, is conventionalized less than draperies carved in the throne of Maximian. But the decorative effect and some of the architectural details in the archangel panel are characteristically Byzantine.

Some of the best examples of Byzantine ivory carving are consular diptychs, two-leaved panels made for Roman consuls, usually to commemorate the achievements of their office. Examples survive from the Roman period until well into the 6th century. One leaf usually presents figures, a scene, or a decorative motif, such as a wreath with an inscription. The other leaf generally depicts the consul, who is shown standing in the earlier, Roman diptychs but seated in the diptychs of the Eastern Empire. A good example is the diptych of the consul Flavius Anastasius (517; South Kensington Museum, London), which has the formalized style and embroidered costume of the early Byzantine period.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)