The Iconographic Evaluation of A Group of Reliquary Crosses Depicting The Virgin and Christ-Child from The Halûk Perk MuseumCeren Ünal, Zeynep Çakmakçı
The Halûk Perk Museum in Istanbul is notable for its large collection of reliquary crosses with a rich iconographic diversity. This article focuses on 14 reliquary crosses depicting the Virgin with Christ-child, selected from this valuable collection. It is possible to see various types of the Virgin, such as Blachernitissa, Kyriotissa, Hodegetria, Nikopoios and Episkepsis, which are used in different examples of Byzantine art, on the reliquary crosses. In our study, five different iconographic types of the Virgin were identified among the reliquary crosses in the collection. The densest group among these are those depicting the Virgin Blachernitissa with 7 examples. Among the reliquary crosses, there is a rare example that we have identified as the Virgin Episkepsis and another example that we are discussing whether it is Kyriotissa or not. In addition, in the study, was drawn attention to the presence of different iconographic types of the types of Virgin on the reliquary crosses, which are not seen in different types of works of Byzantine art, but can be seen on reliquary crosses. 14 reliquary crosses, which are presented in detail in the catalog, 13 of them with engraving technique, date back to the 11th centurywith analogical and iconographic evaluations; In a single example with relief technique, it belongs to the 11th-12th century. The reliquary crosses in the collection were comparatively analysed and evaluated in the light of the different views and interpretations of iconographers on the types of the Virgin in Byzantine art.
Halûk Perk Müzesi’nden Meryem ve Çocuk İsa Betimli Bir Grup Röliker Haçın İkonografik Bakımdan DeğerlendirilmesiCeren Ünal, Zeynep Çakmakçı
İstanbul’da bulunan Halûk Perk Müzesi, zengin bir ikonografik çeşitliliğe sahip çok sayıdaki röliker haç koleksiyonuyla dikkat çekmektedir. Makalede, bu değerli koleksiyondan seçilmiş Meryem ve çocuk İsa betimli 14 adet röliker haç konu edilmektedir. Bizans sanatının farklı örneklerinde kullanılan Meryem Blakhernitissa, Kyriotissa, Hodegetria, Nikopois ve Episkepis gibi çeşitli Meryem tiplerini, röliker haçlarda da görmek mümkündür. Çalışmada koleksiyonda yer alan röliker haçlar içerisinde beş farklı Meryem tipi tespit edilmiştir. Bunlar arasındaki en yoğun grup 7 örnekle Meryem Blakhernitissa betimli olanlardır. Röliker haçlar içinde Meryem Episkepsis olarak tanımlanan ender bir örnek ile yine Kyriotissa olup olmadığı tartışılan bir örnek daha bulunmaktadır. Ayrıca çalışmada, Bizans sanatının farklı türdeki eserlerinde karşımıza çıkmayan ancak röliker haçlar üzerinde görülen farklı Meryem tiplerinin varlığına da dikkat çekilmiştir. Makalenin katalog kısmında ayrıntılı sunulan 14 adet röliker haçtan, kazıma teknikli 13 adeti analojik ve ikonografik değerlendirmelerle 11. yüzyıla; kabartma teknikli tek bir örnekte ise 11-12. yüzyıla tarihlendirilmiştir. Koleksiyondaki röliker haçlar Bizans sanatındaki Meryem tipleri hakkında ikonografi uzmanlarının yaptıkları farklı görüş ve yorumlar eşliğinde karşılaştırmalı olarak incelenerek değerlendirilmiştir.
The remains of the body of a holy person or consecrated objects associated with these remains are called relics. The development of the cult of the relic began in the 4th century. In the early Byzantine period, the cult of martyred saints and the interest in the discovery of personal objects, such as bones and fragments of clothing, belonging to holy persons martyred for the sake of religion led to the development of the concept of relics. The boxes made of different materials and in different forms in which the relics were preserved are called reliquary.
In the Early Byzantine period, cylindrical amulets, talismans and amulets are theprecursors of the later, more widespread reliquary crosses. Between the late 9th and 11th centuries, reliquary crosses replaced their predecessors, the amulets. The interest in reliquary crosses and the cult of the relics after the Iconoclasm is confirmed by archaeological data. It is known that reliquary crosses did not appear before the end of the 9th century, were used at most in the 10th and 11th centuries, and spread rapidly to neighbouring cultures. It was believed that the reliquary crosses would protect the believer from all evil during his/her life and after his/her death. It is known that reliquary crosses carried on the chest, were used by all members of the society, especially clergy, men, women and even children. Reliquary crosses are categorised according to their functions, construction techniques, forms and the depictions on them. According to their construction techniques, reliquary crosses are generally classified into two main groups, namely incised and relief, and are further subdivided according to the depictions on them.
The 14 reliquary crosses depicting the Virgin with Christ-child in the Halûk Perk Museum have been analysed and classified in the light of the opinions of different experts on the types and iconography of the Virgin in Byzantine art. The reliquary crosses analysed in our study were classified according to the iconographic types of the Virgin with Christ-child, not according to their construction techniques. Five different types of the Virgin with Christ-child were identified on the reliquary crosses from the collection.
In the first group (Catalogue nos. 1-7), Christ-child is depicted on the chest of the Virgin, who is depicted in full-length frontal view with her hands open to both sides in a praying position. This type is a depiction of the Virgin Blachernitissa (Βλαχερυίτισσσσα), well known in Byzantine art. The 7 reliquary crosses in the first group are divided into three sub-groups according to the physical depiction of the Virgin (Catalogue nos. 1-7). It is understood that the depiction styles of the 3 reliquary crosses with the oval-shaped shoulders of the Virgin are similar to each other. They may have been made in production workshops in the same region, or they may reflect the stylistic preference of the period (Type 1/a, Catalogue 1-2-3-4). In the second subgroup, the Virgin’s shoulders are not oval and are slightly tapering upwards. There are two reliquary crosses in this group and both are decorated with foliate motifs each sides (Type 1/b, Catalogue 5-6). Lastly, the Virgin Blachernistissa example was produced with very fine workmanship (Type 1/c, Catalogue 1c.7) and every detail of the maphorion of the Virgin is carefully emphasised.
In the second group, only one reliquary cross (Type 2, Catalogue no. 8), the Virgin is shown frontal and full-length and in a prayer position with her hands open to her sides. In this example, made with the casting technique and decorated in relief, there is a bust of Christ-child in a medallion in front of the Virgin and at the level of her chest. This type of depiction of the Virgin coincides with Episkepsis. When the studieson reliquary crosses are analysed in general, it is noteworthy that there is no direct example and definition of the Virgin Episkepsis. In this context, this example in the collection is important as it is the counterpart of the Episkepsis type, which we see in different examples of Byzantine art, in reliquary crosses. Based on the depiction of Episkepsis on the cross, it can be dated to the 11th-12th centuries.
At this stage, it is necessary to include the Platytera type, which shows very similar iconographic features with Episkepis in the iconography of the Virgin, in our iconography discussion. This iconographic type within the depictions of the Virgin is known by the title “Platytera”, which means “wider than heaven” in Greek. In the Platytera type, the Virgin in the position of orans, carrying the medallion depicting the Christ-child on her chest is very similar to the Blachernitissa and Episkepsis types. In the definition of the Platytera type, there are similarities between Episkepsis, and sometimes both types are used together. The main source of this categorisation problem is that the Blachernitissa icon type is not fully known and there is no conclusive evidence as to whether versions of it existed from the early period onwards. More detailed studies on the iconography of the Virgin on the reliquary crosses will provide us with clearer information about the Episkepsis or Platytera types. In this sense, the existence of the iconographic types of the Virgin that can be classified as Episkepsis or Platytera on reliquary crosses is also opened to discussion.
The third group of reliquary crosses (Type 3, Catalogue nos. 9-10-11) also includes a full-length frontal depiction of the Virgin with Christ-child. In this group, however, the Virgin is not in the position of orans, and she is encircling the head of Christ-child with her arms broken at the elbows, and pointing to him with her hands and fingers curled over his head. In this depiction, the Virgin uses her arms and hands like a bow to form a medallion on her chest surrounding the head of Christ-child.
In the fourth group of reliquary crosses (Type 4, Catalogue no.12-13), the Virgin is depicted full-length and with the Christ-child in front of her chest. Mary’s arms and hands are not carved and emphasized on both reliquary crosses.
In the fifth and last group, there is one reliquary cross (Type 5 Catalogue no. 14). In this sample in the collection, the Virgin is holding the Christ-child with her left hand at a point between his head and shoulders. Although the reliquary cross is not in full form, it can be assumed that the Virgin is depicted with her left hand on the shoulder of her child and her right hand supporting him from below. This type of depiction of the Virgin is defined as Kyriotissa in studies on reliquary crosses. In the Kyriotissa type, the Virgin is depicted from the front, holding the Christ-child, at the level of her chest, with her right hand on the shoulder of the Christ-child, and her left hand covering the lower part of the Christ-child’s body. However, the example in the collection shows the opposite holding position.
In conclusion; it is understood that seven reliquary crosses in the Halûk Perk Museum depicts the Virgin Blachernitissa with a full-sized with Christ-child at the chest level (Catalogue nos. 1-7). Analysing the studies carried out until today, it is revealed that this type of reliquary crosses were produced in large numbers during the Byzantine Period. The reliquary cross in Catalogue no. 8, which is a rare and interesting example, bears the image of the Virgin Episkepsis. Although there is no inscription or abbreviation on the reliquary cross indicating the title Episkepsis, this conclusion was reached through typological evaluation. The overlap of this interesting example, which can be identified by some experts as the Virgin Blachernitissa, with the Episkepsis image is one of the details of our study. In the 11th and 12th centuries, the depiction of the Virgin Episkepsisis frequently encountered in different works of art such as coins, seals and icons, and it is thought that the reliquary cross in the collection was produced in the same period. In addition, our study provides information about the Episkepis and Platytera types and emphasises that the issue of whether or not they are found on reliquary crosses should be discussed. Another subject of our study is the depiction of the Virgin Kyriotissa, which is frequently found on reliquary crosses. Taking into account the recent studies of different experts, the definition of the Virgin Kyriotissa and Blachernitissa is discussed. It is clear that the Kyriotissa type has a clear definition and should not be confused with the Blachernitissa type. However, in the Kyriotissa depiction found in the only reliquary crosses we analysed in the collection, the position of the Virgin holding the Christ-child on her chest with her hands was found to be different.
It is understood that the depictions on the reliquary crosses are very important sources for the studies on the iconography of the Virgin. In our study, while introducing the depictions of the Virgin with Christ-child on the reliquary crosses in the Halûk Perk Museum, it is emphasised that different information and suggestions can be presented in the light of new researches based on the iconography of the Virgin.