Iconography

Iconography

The splendid decoration of the Holy Apostles survives only in the words of the Rhodian and Mesarites. From them we learn that the magnificent building erected at the time of Justinian was lavishly embellished with sumptuous mosaics, credited to the artist Eulalios, the only Byzantine painter to enjoy a fame similar to that of the greatest painters and sculptors of the Classical Age. Of the two extant sources, Mesarites’ description, although fragmentary, is particularly detailed in evoking the riches of the figurative microcosm that adorn the walls and vaults of the church: as the author paints his overflowing frieze of words, sacred history is brought to life in our mind’s eye, in a stream of glowing colors and prodigious resplendence. For this reason, his text has nurtured scholarly imagination and inspired a number of reconstructions of the church’s decorative program.

The following set of drawings suggests an iconographic layout for the upper parts of the building and, in particular, its five domes. They show how the team of scholars interpreted the information derived from the Rhodian and Mesarites in order to recreate an image of the church’s lost mosaics consistent with a middle Byzantine style. And with the aid of comparative visual material drawn from monumental painting and manuscript illumination, their perception of the domes is projected onto a series of consecutive designs that gradually unfold the features and style of the church’s mosaic adornment. Middle Byzantine iconographic norms allowed the scholars to craft a meaningful space, in which the representation of the church’s decoration, freely inspired by surviving examples of the time, could take a plausible shape.

 

Exhibit Items