V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University has held the lecture “Saint Empress Theodora: What the Fabric in her Lifetime Portrait in San Vitale in Ravenna Can Tell You”. The initiators of the event were the Ukrainian Association of Byzantine Studies, the Department of Ancient and Medieval History of the School of History and the Ukrainian-Italian Academic Center.
Yuliia Matvieieva, an instructor of the Department of Art and Decorative Fabrics and Clothes Design of Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Fine Arts, acquainted those present with the results of her research.
Her report was on understanding the classical piece of Byzantine art — the mosaic depicting the portrait of Empress Theodora in San Vitale in Ravenna — through studying the fabrics presented in it.
In particular, the researcher said that in the mosaic, she could not see pieces of stone smalt, but warm, flexible, hand-made fabric.
“The mosaic of Empress Theodora was created as a companion portrait. Therefore, it should be considered along with the portrait of Justinian. In the mosaic, the spouses are carrying imperial gifts to the church — eucharistic vessels,” said Yuliia Matvieieva.
The lecturer specifically focused on the particular elements of the mosaic. According to her, the curtain in front of Theodora represents the boundary between the sacred and mundane worlds, and the source of water is the symbol of eternal life that the Empress herself sought for.
Translation by Anastasiya Makogon
Books of Yuliia Matvieieva:
- Матвеева Юлия. Декоративные ткани в мозаиках Равенны: семантика и культурно-смысловой контекст. – Киев-Харьков: Дух і Літера, 2017.
- Matveyeva Julia. Crossed Flowers and Circles: an Evolution of Eucharistic Symbols. – Kiev: Dukh i Litera, 2016.