MOSAIC ARTIST, Byzantine
(active 1260s in Constantinople)

Deesis

1260s
Mosaic
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

In Byzantine art, and later Eastern Orthodox art generally, the Deësis (Greek: "prayer" or "supplication"), is a traditional iconic representation of Christ in Majesty or Christ Pantocrator, enthroned, carrying a book, and flanked by the Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist, and sometimes other saints and angels. Mary and John, and any other figures, are shown facing towards Christ with their hands raised in supplication on behalf of humanity.

The present mosaic is located in the South Gallery or Catechumena in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Christ's left hand holds a closed Book of Gospels as he raises his right hand in benediction. His face is strikingly realistic and expressive, as are those of the Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist, who stand to either side of Christ. All are set against a golden background. The lower portion of the composition has been damaged. This and all other mosaics in Hagia Sophia were covered with plaster at the church's conversion into a mosque in the 15th century. This actually preserved the mosaics for later restoration, which began in 1929, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk ordered the conversion of the mosque into a museum.




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