Skip to Content

Laus Crucis

Early Byzantine
6th century - 7th century
3.18 cm x 2.38 cm x 0.48 cm (1 1/4 in. x 15/16 in. x 3/16 in.)

On view


Additional Images
Click an image to view a larger version
Additional Image Alternative lighting
Alternative lighting

In the Byzantine imagination, angels did not circulate as equals, but rather participated, as the powerful did on earth, in a complex hierarchy. Pseudo-Dionysios the Areopagite, writing around the year 500, partitioned the heavenly realm into three main tiers, each with three ranks of angels. The exousíai (“powers”) named in this inscription held the middle level of the middle tier. Angels supporting a cross appear quite early in Christian art, for example on sarcophagi from the fourth century, as well as on gold coins minted by Justinian in the middle of the sixth century. Given that Byzantines understood their earthly empire as the mimesis (imitation) of the Kingdom of Heaven, it should not surprise us to find that they emulated the Laus Crucis for images of mortal potentates. A very similar composition appears on the reverse of coins minted by Constans II (641–68) and Constantine IV (668–681) in the form of the paired portrait of their co-emperors Herakleios and Tiberios flanking a cross.

Cameos, prized in the Roman imperial period as portraits and insignia, are much rarer in the Byzantine period. The reference to power on this sacred icon joins other evidence that they continued to serve as insignia of office into the early Byzantine period.

- J. Hanson

C. H. Smith and C. A. Hutton, Catalog of the Art Collection, vol. 2 Catalogue of the Antiquities (Greek, Etruscan and Roman) in the Collection of the Late Wyndham Francis Cook, Esqre. (London, 1908), 79, no. 345, pl. 18.

Walters Art Gallery, Early Christian and Byzantine Art, ed. D.E. Miner, exhibition catalogue, Baltimore Museum of Art, April 25-June 22, 1947(Baltimore, 1947), 113, no. 552, pl. 67.

"Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection--Aquisitions December 1, 1946-November 1, 1947," Bulletin of the Fogg Museum of Art 10.6 (1947): 219-39, esp. 234.

The Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Harvard University (Washington, D.C., 1955), 99, no. 215.

H. Wentzel, "Die Mittelalterlichen Gemmen in der staatlichen Münzsammlung zu München," Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst 8 (1957): 37-56, esp. 55.

M. C. Ross, Metalwork, Ceramics, Glass, Glyptics, Painting, Catalogue of the Byzantine and Early Mediaeval Antiquities in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection 1 (Washington, D.C., 1962), 98-99, no. 119, pl. 57.

Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 98, no. 335.

K. Wentzel, "Kameen," Reallexikon zur byzantinischen Kunst 3 (Stuttgart, 1976), 918.

Byzance: l'art byzantin dans les collections publiques françaises, exhibition catalogue, Musée du Louvre, 3 November 1992-1 February 1993 (Paris, 1992), 89.

C. Mango and M. M. Mango, "Cameos in Byzantium," in Cameos in Context : the Benjamin Zucker Lectures, 1990 ed. M. Henig and M.J. Vickers (Oxford, England and Houlton, Me., 1993), 56-76, esp. 63-65.

G. Kornbluth, "Ein karolingischer Kameo am Dreikönigenschrein im Kölner Dom," Kölner Domblatt 62 (1997): 11-150, esp. 133-134.

A. Kirin, J. N. Carder, and R. S. Nelson, Sacred Art, Secular Context : Objects of Art from the Byzantine Collection of Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., Accompanied by American Paintings from the Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, ed. A. Kirin, exhibition catalogue, Georgia Museum of Art, (Athens, Ga., 2005), 66, no. 11.

G. Bühl, ed., Dumbarton Oaks: The Collections (Washington, D.C., 2008), 112, pl. p. 113.

Exhibition History
Baltimore, Baltimore Museum of Art, "Early Christian and Byzantine Art," April 25 - June 22, 1947.

Athens, GA, Georgia Museum of Art, “Sacred Art, Secular Context: Objects of Art from the Byzantine Collection of Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., Accompanied by American Paintings from the Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss,” May 15 – Nov. 6, 2005.

Acquisition History
Purchased from Joseph Brummer (dealer) by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC, August 15, 1947.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, DC.