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St. Sophia :: Mosaic of the Comnenus

Mosaic of the Comnenus

The mosaics of the Comnenus, are located on the eastern wall of the southern gallery in the upper floor. On this panel, Mary is depicted in the middle, flanked by Emperor John II Comnenus and his wife Irene, of Hungarian origin.

The Virgin Mary , seen located in the middle, is shown holding the Child Jesus on her lap. Behind the head of the Child Jesus, a halo with a cross is seen. Jesus is making a sign of blessing with one hand, while bolding a roll in the other. The Virgin is shown in her usual lapis lazuli gown and is standing up. On both sides of her head stand the signs '.MP" and .'OY", indicating her as the Mother of God.

Emperor John II Comnenus is seen, on the right side of the Virgin. Over the emperor's head the following words are written with red mosaics over a golden background; .'Porphyrogennatos Ionnes Komnenos".

The title of "Porphyrogennatos" is a sign of nobility used for those born in the reign of his father . John II Comnenus, who is one of the best emperors in Byzantine history , is depicted as a dignified person on these mosaics.

The emperor pictured as viewed from the front is seen in a garb decorated with precious stones. The emperor is seen holding a purse in his hand. This indicates that he has donated some money to Hagia Sophia.

On the left of the Virgin, Empress Irene is seen standing up, and wearing ceremonial garments and with her crown on her head. Empress Irene was the daughter of King Laszlo of Hungary. With her eloborately plaited blond hair, light gray eyes and pink cheeks, it is clearly evident that she is from Central Europe. She is seen holding a roll in her hand and on both sides of her head there is an inscription as follows: "Pious Augusta Irene".

Near this triple composition, a portrait of their eldest son Alexius Comnenus is squeezed over an adjacent pilaster. It is known that this prince, who was made a partner to the throne in 1122, when he was only seventeen, died soon of tuberculosis. Here, his face has mournful features, reflecting his sorry condition.

The mosaics of Comnenus were made in 1122. It is one of the best examples, displaying the realistic aspects of the art of portraiture. Here, people are represented as they actually are, without being idealized.


Above text and pictures are from the book titled "Hagia Sophia".

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