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Unformatted text preview: 1 Sample Article Paper 2 The Imperial Panels of S. Vitale The panels d epicting the Emperor Justinian and the Empress Theodora have endured many analyses and theories on the purpose of the paintings and the six mysterious unlabeled figures. Irina Andreescu ­Treadgold a nd Warren Treadgold analyzed the two Imperial Panels in S. Vitale to try and acquire a deeper meaning in the works of art as well a s answer some of the a ge old questions that came with the two parallel panels . In this process they a lso looked a t four interpretations of the two panels b y Ernst Kitzinger, Henry Maguire, Sabine MacCormack a nd Charles Barber. The authors disprove these interpretations using the analyses they found from the materials and the work on the art itself, and with the use of h istory rather than simple ideological a wareness. They do also provide an answer to the originality, mysterious characters and the purpose of the paintings. The authors disprove the four interpretations because they s ee too many art historians s imply classifying the ancient Byzantines as ideological thinkers and nothing more. Their lack of the use of history to apply meaning and accuracy in their interpretations fail to provide reasonable answers that construct their interpretations as inadequate. The authors, using the evidence that they found of the two workshops initiated throughout the work in S . V itale, Procopius’ writings and from history, provide a fairly n ew understanding of the panels. The authors found interesting information through the stones used in the two panels and the a lignment of the Justinian painting. They understood it to b e the division of labor, and the employment of two workshops during the different reign of the Bishops. They found evidence suggesting that the body was the only original part of the bishop and that the h ead and label were probably changed from the Bishop Victor to Maximian after the latter was appointed as the n ew Bishop. Also, during the 2nd workshop, the authors noticed that a n ew figure was added in between Justinian and Maximian, b ut d id n ot have a lower half due to lack of space. This figure was 2 comprehended to b e John the Nephew of V italian 1. John was added in b y Maximian to promote h is relationship to the Emperor and his officials. This probably boosted the s ense of authority that Maximian exerted in a time when h e n eeded it the most. With the h elp of Procopius’ writings and other h istorical evidence, it was recognized that Belisarius was the man on Justinian’s right s ide, and h is wife, Antonina. In Procopius’ Secret History, the relationship b etween Antonina’s daughter, Joannina a nd Anastasius, the grandson of Theodora, is emphasized. Belisarius and Antonina n ever wished for this relationship to advance, yet it did and ended up with an engagement. They realized that their power as officials was d eclining severely and sought ways to reinstate their power. They went to Ravenna a nd probably had Victor have their portraits in the painting of Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora to give them a h igher s tatus. Victor used this opportunity to add h imself into the painting as well, to foster h is relationship to the Emperor and h is officials as well. The main purpose for the original addition of the five n ew figures was to promote their relationship with the Emperor so as to increase their a uthority. These mysterious figures could now b e acknowledged as Belisarius, John, Anastasius, Maximian, Antonina and Joannina ( John is the sixth, h e was added in the 2nd workshop and so was Maximian who took over V ictor). Finally, the evidence and strict reliance on historical facts gave insight into the p ossible characters of the Imperial panels and the purpose of the paintings. The use of the paintings in the critical paper was very successful; they aided in providing a greater understanding of what the authors were trying to convey, and even h elped to aid and d isprove some of the interpretations quicker such as the correlation between the Emperor and the Bishop (the emperor’s elbow covering the Bishop’s whilst the latter’s feet were ahead) and the interpretation that Justinian’s panel was similar to the Apostles and Jesus (disproved by the analysis with the workshop that 1 Irina Andreescu ­Treadgold and Warren Treadgold, “Procopius and the Imperial Panels of S. Vitale,” The A rt Bulletin, Vol. 79, No. 4 (1997): 729 3 showed the 12 person came later). The authors also compare the woman p ointing to Antonina to the common gesture used on Roman steles, or funerary sculptures; this gave them an answer to who the woman was – Joannina, Antonina’s daughter. I b elieve, with the help of the a nalysis on the paintings and the evidence provided, the critical argument was very well formulated and convinced me. I feel the n eed to ask the authors to have explained a little more on the constant categorization of the Byzantines as ideological thinkers. One of their arguments was that, “Although our findings h ere admittedly would have b een d ifficult for these scholars to anticipate, the fact remains that their interpretations show a tendency that has long b een popular, and has recently b ecome even more so, to exaggerate the amount of ideology in Byzantine and late ancient thinking.”2 I understood some of the ideological thought represented b y the four interpretations in the b eginning of the essay but I feel the need to express the major usage of it more since it is so “popular”. The organization and s tructure of the paper was exceptional; I enjoyed h ow the mysterious characters in the panels were unraveled and in that process the purpose of the paintings were discovered as well. The essay really a ided me in u nderstanding the Imperial Panels of S. Vitale; it gave me a good understanding of the historical context that occurred and the purpose of such panels in a famous town of Ravenna. It a lso taught me how art can actually b e more susceptible to misinterpretation, which I did not know could really happen. 2 Treadgold and Treadgold, “Procopius and the Imperial Panels of S. Vitale,” 722. 4 Bibliography Irina Andreescu ­Treadgold and Warren Treadgold, “Procopius and the Imperial Panels of S. Vitale,” The Art Bulletin, Vol. 79, No. 4 (Dec., 1997), pp. 708 ­723. ...
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This note was uploaded on 09/27/2011 for the course ART HIST 106 taught by Professor Budd during the Spring '08 term at Rutgers.

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