Diptych Leaf with Ariadne
Constantinople, c. 500-520
Ivory, 26.5 x 12.7 cm
This was the middle section of a five-part imperial diptych panel. The lower left-hand corner is restored. Traces of ancient color remain, including purple luster in the background, and black to mark the pupils of the eyes.
The empress appears similar to the one depicted in an ivory panel in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, although in the Vienna plaque she is perhaps a little older and seated. She holds the globus cruciger in her left hand, while her right is held with palm forward at elbow height. A diadem covers her snooded hair, as on the marble head of Ariadne at the Louvre, with the addition of earrings, pendulia, and necklace. She is dressed in tunic, dalmatic, and chlamys, and jeweled shoes. The chlamys is of embroidered fabric with jeweled border and a tablion which shows an emperor's bust. Although abrasion has erased details, Delbrueck has suggested that the emperor's helmet resembled that of Roma on the Clementinus diptych of 513. She sits on a bolster on a highbacked throne, her feet perched on a footstool. The baldachin is rendered architecturally and ornamented with eagles at the front corners.
The identification with Ariadne has been generally accepted. The execution is, however, characteristic of Constantinopolitan work of the early sixth century, the style emphasizing rounded, almost globular shapes, evident on diptychs from those of Areobindus in 506 to Anastasius' in 517. This spherical geometry is shared by depictions of the same empress on some six other ivories and three sculpted heads.
While the relatively flatter and longer face, which distinguishes this portrait from the others, may be a mark of old age, the triangular eyes with slanting supraorbital ridges differ in a more fundamental way. We seem closer to the forms of the bronze head from Niš, best identified with Euphemia, wife of Justin I; this suggests this diptych might have been executed very late in Ariadne's life—perhaps even posthumously.