chapter  14
Senses and sensibility in Byzantium: Liz James
Pages 16

THE MOSAIC OF THE VIRGIN AND CHILD in the apse of the church of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, dedicated on 29 March 867, is positioned 30 m above the fl oor of the church (fi gure 14.1). The fi gure of the Virgin is more than 4 m tall, and that of the Child just less than 2 m.1 The artist is unknown and the only names associated with the mosaic are those of the two emperors in whose reign it was put up and the patriarch Photios, who celebrated its unveiling with a homily.2 The mosaic was the fi rst monumental work of fi gural art to be installed in the most public church in the capital of the Byzantine empire after the end of the period known as Iconoclasm.3 It is an image that has been approached in a variety of ways. It has been discussed in terms of its formal qualities of style and iconography; in terms of how it fi ts into the art-historical schema of the decorative programme of the Byzantine church; in terms of its social, cultural, theological and political history; and, most recently, in terms of its visuality.4