Sunday, July 5, 2009

Deësis mosaic (Christ Pantocrator)

Title: Deësis mosaic (Christ Pantocrator)
Artist: Unknown
Medium: Mosaic
Size: approx. 120 x 240cm
Date: c.1260
Location: Hagia Sophia, Istanbul.


This mosaic is found within the Hagia Sophia (Turkish: Ayasofya) a former patriarchal basilica in the city of Istanbul, Turkey. The original church on this site was constructed around 360 AD, but the current building did not receive many of its most beautiful works of art until after the Byzantine recapture of the city and the return to Orthodoxy in 1261.

In this Deësis (Greek: "supplication") mosaic the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist follow the Byzantine iconic motif imploring the intercession of Christ Pantocrator for humanity on Judgment Day. The most common translation of Pantocrator is "Almighty" or "All-powerful", and by the 4th century AD the title generally referred to Christ rather than the Creator. Pantocrator had come to suggest Christ as a mild but stern, all-powerful judge of humanity.

The Deësis mosaic is situated in the imperial enclosure of the upper galleries, and is widely considered the finest in Hagia Sophia. The mosaic is lain with astonishing exactness which can especially be seen in the many tiny tessellae making up the faces. A vast number of colors were used with the tessellae lain in a painterly fashion, brushstroke-like lines ending in arrow-shaped slivers of glass and stone. This exacting work creates a softness, with humane expressions close in style to that of the Italian painters of the late 13th century. The bottom part of this mosaic is badly deteriorated, probably due to wind and rain. For decades the huge windows to the left of the mosaic were often open, allowing the outside elements to pour in.

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