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we're in the musee de louvre in paris looking at a very large panel of ivory that is byzantine and we date to the early 6th century these Byzantine ivories of this early date are very rare there's another one in the British Museum this one shows an emperor on horseback in the central panel with four panels on the four sides one of which is lost what's remarkable to me is just how deeply carved and how energized the central panel is and there's been tremendous care in representing not only fine details but also alternations between areas of deep carving and broad smooth areas for instance of the horse's body this is so clearly an illustration of this moment of transition between the classical tradition and the Byzantine as we will come to know it should we start at the top sure we've got Christ in a medallion in the center with angels on either side he makes a gesture of blessing and around him is a symbol of the Sun of the moon and a star he holds a scepter with a cross and looks directly out at us and you can see that he's been rendered not with the traditional long thin face with a beard but he's young he's beardless and his hair is curly which is very reminiscent of the classical tradition those two angels are very reminiscent of Nike figures of figures of victory that we would see in ancient Rome and carving although the drapery has been simplified and is now rendered by cuts rather than fully formed folds so we have this static image of divinity and below this dynamic image of the Emperor riding a horse toward us an emperor who is a Christian we can see him holding the reins as he turns the horse planting his Lance down on the ground look at the round forms of the horse's breasts or the leg that comes out and the way that the rein pulls the horses ahead back in there seems to be such a sensitivity to creating a sense of volume to establishing space for this foreshortened horse to occupy our historians believe that the fineness of this carving indicates that this was made in a workshop in Constantinople in the capital of what we think of as the Byzantine Empire but really was then the Roman Empire no we don't know who this Imperial figure is in fact we're really just guessing that it is an imperial figure but we feel like we're on fairly firm ground because of the fineness of the carving and all the iconography is Imperial we have a nike figure a figure of victory presenting the Emperor with a palm branch a symbol of victory and we guess that in her right hand she would have originally been holding a crown to place on his head as in so many other images of Roman emperors nearby is the figure of a vanquished foe well look how that smaller figure behind the horse is represented he's wearing a Phrygian cap which was a symbol of the other it was a symbol of the Barbarian he's wearing pants he's wearing closed shoes all of these things were symbols of the barbarian and barbarian here means foreigner someone outside of the Roman Empire now under the horse we see a female figure she's quite classicizing in the way that her drape has fallen off one shoulder and she holds in the folds of her drapery fruits and so she becomes a symbol of plenty and our historians think she represents perhaps conquered lands or in the bounty of the earth we could see her as a personification of the earth submitting to the emperor by holding the underside of his foot now if you look closely at the central panel you'll see that there are areas where there would have been small gems or pearls we can see the gem for instance between the eyes of the horse but you can also see that there would have been many others that would have decorated the horse's body so that central panel is in such high relief look at the drapery flying back behind the Emperor there's a real sense of energy here that's contrasted with the figure of we think a general or at least a very high-level officer who's presenting the Emperor with a statue representing victory so that general is represented in much shallower relief and we can see that he's in a trunk architectural space we can just make out Corinthian columns behind him below him is a bag perhaps that's foodie that was brought back from a victory and art historians assume that on the right side of the panel a similar figure would have existed below we see another winged female figure another figure of victory in the center if you look closely you can see that she's holding a trophy and at the top we see military uniform and so this would have been a symbol of military triumph and on either side of her are two figures on the left those two figures are bearded one seems to carry a crown one seems to carry a container perhaps also filled with booty with a lion below on the right side we see other conquered peoples these have been interpreted perhaps as people from the east one bears an ivory tusk and the others I've staff of some sort and between them a tiger and before them an elephant these are clearly symbols of distant peoples that have been conquered there's a real sense of order that is being presented the foreign peoples of the world have submitted to the Byzantine Emperor to the Roman Emperor and the Emperor resides on earth under God in heaven you