Byzantine art is best known for its wonderful mosaics, especially those preserved in churches such as San Vitale or San Apollinaris in Casse in the Italian city of Ravenna. However, it is a very fruitful creative period that went beyond that artistic discipline.
Flavius Anastasius Probus Diptych
A good example of this is sculpture, and specifically the many ivory reliefs that have survived to this day. One sample would be the stupendous Ivory Barberini, and another the diptych that concerns us here dedicated to Flavius Anastasius Probus.
This is a piece that is currently in the French National Library, and despite what it may appear in the photo, its size is quite small since each ivory plate that makes up this diptych measures only 36 x 12 centimeters.
This kind of works were very common at that time. This was carried out in the year 517, and with them it was intended to honor the life and triumphs of the characters who commissioned them. The truth is that there were many Byzantine sculptors specialized in the fine work of ivory, since with this material not only many diptychs similar to this one were carved. It was also common to make jewelery boxes, delicate boxes, caskets, and even manuscript and illuminated book covers. Incidentally, this use of ivory in book covers was later alsohe worked in Carolingian art, where there are codices like the Aureus that have these delicate covers.
As for the diptychs dedicated to a character, they usually have the same distribution as the one we see here. The honoree appears seated, in a frontal attitude, so much so that one must pay attention to the feet or the legs of the chair, which seem almost vertical. He is the one who occupies the main space, and the rest of the figures are distributed around him.
Here we see the consul Flavius Anastasius Probus carrying in his left hand a staff as a symbol of the god Jupiter, an eagle. That baton represents the temporary power of the character. A power that allows him to preside over and start the circus games that amuse the population so much. That start is given with the handkerchief he carries in his right hand.
While among the different figures that surround it, it is possible to identify on both sheets the pair of emperors of the moment, Anastasius and Ariadne. And there are also winged victories, which are the personification of Byzantium and Rome, the capitals of the Eastern and Western Empires.