Byzantine; Made in Constantinople, possibly from the Monastery of the Virgin Peribleptos ("All-Seeing"), now the Sulumanastir, a mosque
9 3/4 x 6 7/8 x 4 1/8 in. (24.8 x 17.5 x 10.5 cm)
Purchase, Gifts of J. Pierpont Morgan, George Blumenthal and Messrs. Duveen Brothers, by exchange; Bequests of George Blumenthal and Anne D. Thompson, The Collection of Michael Dreicer, Bequest of Michael Dreicer, and Theodore M. Davis Collection, Bequest of Theodore M. Davis, by exchange; Rogers Fund and Mr. and Mrs. Maxime L. Hermanos Gift, 1983 (1983.167)
The elegant articulation of the bust on this capital is evidence of the artistic revival in Constantinople after its restoration to Byzantine rule in 1261. The archangel Michael, who is identified by an inscription in Greek, wears a jeweled tunic and a diadem and holds both an orb and a staff. These elements of dress and attributes of authority reflect the long-established connection between archangels, who are the guardians of heaven, and the Byzantine emperor, Christ's representative on earth. This image may have been part of the decoration of the upper section of a tomb built into a niche. It is said to have been found near the ruins of the Monastery of the Virgin Peribleptos (All-Seeing), established in the early eleventh century by the Byzantine emperor Romanos III Argyros (r. 102834), who was buried there. In the Late Byzantine period the site remained important, and the imperial court visited its church annually for the Feast of the Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple, one of the Twelve Great Feasts (Dodekaorton) of the Orthodox Church.