Byzantine ivory plaque - 1420-1523 AD
; ; Antique elephant ivory (Loxodonta africana Blumenbach, 1797 o Elephas maximus Linnaeus, 1758) Byzantine plaque very similar to the Barberini ivory, from an imperial diptych dating from the first half of the 6th Century and attributed to an imperial workshop in Constantinople, now in the Louvre Museum in Paris, but the copy in the Louvre has the original right panel missing, replaced - perhaps in the 16th Century - by a board bearing the inscription CONSTANT. N. IMP. CONST.
With the same iconography the plaque under examination shows in the central panel an Emperor on horseback in military clothes while triumphing over the enemies prostrated at his feet and in the upper panel is depicted Christ Pantocrator in the act of crowning the Emperor.
The Emperor, in the same way as the plaque in the Louvre, can be identified in many different ways: Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, the first owner in modern era, recognized him without hesitation as Heraclius (Latin: Flavius Heraclius Augustus, Emperor of the Byzantine Empire from AD 610 to 641) and identified the officer offering the statuette of Victory as his son Constantine III (Latin: Heraclius Novus Constantinus Augustus, Byzantine Emperor for four months in AD 641).
Later identifications have also included Constantine I (Latin: Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus, also known as Constantine the Great, Roman Emperor from AD 306 to 337), Constantius II (Latin: Flavius Julius Constantius Augustus, Roman Emperor from AD 337 to 361), Justinian I (Latin: Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus Augustus, also known as Justinian the Great, Eastern Roman Emperor from AD 527 to 565), or possibly Anastasius I (Latin: Flavius Anastasius Augustus, Byzantine Emperor from AD 491 to 518) or Zeno (Zeno the Isaurian, Latin: Flavius Zeno Augustus, originally named Tarasis Kodisa Rousombladadiotes, Eastern Roman Emperor from AD 474 to 475 and again from AD 476 to 491).
In the upper panel are represented two angels bearing an imago clipeata, a round medallion with a bust of Christ; the Saviour holds a scepter with a cross, looks directly at us and makes a gesture of blessing; around him is a symbol of the sun.
Below this static image of Christ, we have a dynamic high-relief image of the Emperor riding a horse toward us.
As a good Christian Emperor, we can see him planting his lance into the ground; under him, a female figure, probably a personification of the earth representing the Emperor's universal dominations, subdues to the Emperor by holding his foot.
The figure on the left panel, in less-elevated relief, could probably be a general or at least a very high level officer recognizable by his military clothing and equipment comparable to those of the Emperor; he advances toward the emperor presenting him a statue representing the Victory and below him there is a bag. This figure is sometimes interpreted as a Consul and the statuette of Victory and the bag as consular attributes. However, this figure may also represent sparsio, the consular donation represented on other diptychs, such as those of Clement (513) and Justin (540), with the bag of gold broadly symbolic of war booty, proof of imperial triumph.
The figure on the right panel, in less-elevated relief, could probably be a low-level officer, recognizable by his military clothing and equipped with shield and spear; he is standing looking at the emperor and planting his lance into the ground.
Below the central panel we see a cartouche bearing the inscription “A.G COSTANTINUS PATRIE ET CON ORDIN” and other conquered people, and on either side are two figures and two crowns. On the left, the figure seems to carry a container perhaps filled with booty while the figure on the right is holding a crucifix. These are clearly symbol of distant people that have been conquered and have submitted to the Byzantine Emperor.
The five panels are mounted on a brass frame.
For more scientific details about dating, a Radiocarbon dating analysis has been run. The results of the Radiocarbon dating analysis indicates as more probably a dating between 1410 and 1523 AD.
One of the most interesting aspects about the comparison between the plaque under examination and the plaque in the Louvre is certainly the presence of the right side panel; actually is hypothesized that the original right panel of the Louvre plaque may have been replaced in the 16th Century; therefore it cannot be excluded that the original one could have had the same iconography as the panel of the examined plaque.
Dimensions 18.5 x 12.8 cm. Weight 386 gr. Item condition grading: *** fair (missing parts). Accompanied by Ce.S.Ar. Centro Studi Archeometrici certificate of antiquity (pre-1947).