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Circular Polycandelon


Byzantine
mid 6th century
55.8 cm (21 15/16 in.)
silver, gilding and niello
BZ.1963.36.4

On view


Permalink: http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/35130

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Additional Image Detail, stamps
Detail, stamps
Additional Image Detail, stamps
Detail, stamps
Additional Image Detail, stamps
Detail, stamps


Description
The lighting of churches in Byzantium—both the luxurious lamps and polycandela and the oil to fuel them—represented a major expense. Wealthy patrons eager to give tangible form to their devotion often did so by dedicating funds to this both practical and symbolically-charged function. In this case, the inscription names the donor: “In fulfillment of a vow and for the salvation of Eutychianos, most humble bishop.” The bishop’s identity is repeated in the form of openwork monograms found just between the outer ring and the elaborate floriated cross within. The monograms on either side resolve to “Eutychianou,” and those at top and bottom to “Episkopou” (bishop).

There are twelve holes for the insertion of glass lamps around the ring and four in the arms of the cross inside. Decorative motifs consist of vegetal scrolls, five crosses, and eight dolphins. Dolphins appeared frequently on lighting devices, even in ancient Rome. They were encouraging signs, thought by sailors to be the harbingers of fair weather and guardians on sea journeys. Sculptors also placed them on sarcophagi, perhaps to protect the deceased on their journey through the underworld. Of the twelve polycandela of the Sion Treasure (divided between Dumbarton Oaks and the Archaeological Museum in Antalya), ten are decorated with dolphins, attesting to the continued use of the motif in the Christianized Empire, possibly by its conflation with another early Christian symbol, the fish. The Liber Pontificalis, which records gifts to the churches of Rome, enumerates over two hundred silver and gold dolphins donated by Constantine I to the Lateran Cathedral and St. Peter’s alone.

- J. Hanson


Bibliography
Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 19, pl. 66.

S. A. Boyd, "A 'Metropolitan' Treasure from a Church in the Provinces: An introduction to the Study of the Sion Treasure," in Ecclesiastical Silver Plate in Sixth-Century Byzantium: Papers of the Symposium held May 16-18, 1986, at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, and Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., ed. S.A. Boyd and M.M. Mango (Washington, D.C., 1992), 5-37, esp. 10 n. 33, 24, pl. S25.1-2, chacklist no. 25.

I. Sevcenko, "The Sion Treasure: The Evidence of the Inscriptions," in Ecclesiastical Silver Plate in Sixth-Century Byzantium: Papers of the Symposium held May 16-18, 1986, at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, and Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., ed. S.A. Boyd and M.M. Mango (Washington, D.C., 1992), 39-56, esp. 40 n. 12, 49, pl. S25.1-2.

E. C. Dodd, "The Question of Workshop: Evidence of the Stamps on the Sion Treasure," in Ecclesiastical Silver Plate in Sixth-Century Byzantium: Papers of the Symposium held May 16-18, 1986, at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, and Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., ed. S.A. Boyd and M.M. Mango (Washington, D.C., 1992), 57-63, esp. 59, pl. S25.1-2.

P. Meyers, "Elemental Compositions of the Sion Treasure and Other Byzantine Silver Objects," in Ecclesiastical Silver Plate in Sixth-Century Byzantium: Papers of the Symposium held May 16-18, 1986, at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, and Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., ed. S. Boyd and M.M. Mango (Washington, D.C., 1992), 169-75, esp. 172, 178, table 1 no. 6.

E. Takahashi, Bizantin bijutsu, Sekai bijutsu daizenshu. Toyo hen 6, Shohan ed. (Tokyo, 1997).

J. Durand, L'art byzantin (Paris, 1999), 53, fig. p. 44.

C. Stiegemann, Byzanz, das Licht aus dem Osten: Kult und Alltag im byzantinischen Reich vom 4. bis 15. Jahrhundert, exhibition catalogue, Erzbischöfliches Diözesanmuseum Paderborn, December 6, 2001-March 31, 2002, (Mainz, 2001), 70, fig. 8.

M. M. Mango, "Three Illuminating Objects in the Lampsacus Treasure," in Through a Glass Brightly: Studies in Byzantine and Medieval Art and Archaeology presented to David Buckton, ed. C. Entwistle (Oxford and Oakville, CT, 2003), 68-71, esp. 69, fig. 9.12.

L. Boura and M. G. Parani, Lighting in Early Byzantium, Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Collection Publications 11 (Washington, D.C., 2008), 37, 86-87, no. 25.


Acquisition History
Purchased from George Zacos (dealer) by Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss, Switzerland, 1963.

Given by Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss to Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., 1963.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.