Constantinople, c. 1050-1100
Embossed copper-gilt, 21.2 x 14.2 cm
Inscribed in Greek: "Mother of God, strengthen thy servant Philip the bishop…"
This Byzantine plaque is a type of image known as the 'Mother of God showing the Way'. It was found on the Venetian island of Torcello, and the inscription, commemorating a 'bishop Philip' is probably a later, Italian addition. This is a good example of the sort of Byzantine object that made its way into Europe between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. The plaque may even have been part of the plunder from the Fourth Crusade, which sacked Constantinople in 1204. Images of this sort were an inspiration to Venetian artists who created similar reliefs as altar furnishings. Byzantine images and object types were an important inspiration for Western European artists and patrons at various times throughout the middle ages.
Embossed copper-gilt plaque representing the Virgin standing on an ornamental pedestal, holding the Christ child in her left arm, and gesturing towards him with her right hand. Christ looks up at his mother, and grasps her mantle with his right hand. Along the top of the plaque is a punched ornamental border, along with a hole in the centre. There are traces of a similar border along the left hand side of the plaque. The plaque has been trimmed at the bottom and the side. It has also been regilded.
Virgin Hodegetria (V&A)