According to tradition, Demetrios was martyred by the emperor Maximian near the end of the third century, not long before the legalization of Christianity by Constantine I. By the sixth century, the cult of Saint Demetrios came to be centered on the church dedicated to him in Thessalonike, although there was some uncertainty even then as to where his remains were buried. The earliest images show him as he is here, a princely saint, richly dressed in the chlamys. He later came to be represented as an armed soldier, as he is on an enameled reliquary at Dumbarton Oaks (accession no. BZ.1953.20).
Cloisonné enameling was one of the great achievements of Byzantine artisanship, and the art form is perhaps most astonishing on this small scale. The artist’s skill with cloisons, the wires that form separate compartments, reveals why this medium was the envy of contemporary Latins, and even circulated as diplomatic gifts among Fatimid courts. The closest parallel for the work on this piece, and for the vertical lettering on either side of the saint’s bust, is the series of enamel plaques on a crown presented by the Emperor Michael VII Doukas (1067-1078) to the Hungarian King Geza I (1074-1077), now part of the Holy Crown of Hungary.
- J. Hanson
M. C. Ross, Catalogue of the Byzantine and Early Mediaeval Antiquities in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, vol. 2, Jewelry, Enamels, and Art of the Migration Period (Washington, D.C., 1965, 2nd ed. with addendum by S.A. Boyd and S. R. Zwirn, 2005), 104, no. 152, pl. XLVIII.
Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 71, no. 253.
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), 85, no. 32, pl. 32.
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 – November 6, 2005.
Said to have been found in Smyrna, Turkey.
Purchased from George Zacos, Istanbul, by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, April 1947.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss to Dumbarton Oaks Research Librray and Collection, April 14, 1957.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.