• Бојана Племић Висока туристичка школа струковних студија, Београд – Србија


In the Archaeological Collection of Belgrade City Museum, an oil lamp is kept, depicting a male and female figure in long robes with arms spread in the Orante posture, whereas a cross decoration is rendered between there heads. As indicated by unclear traces, a female figure could be wearing a veil or long hair against the nimbus more visible in the male figure. Some authors have previously associated this image with Constantine the Great and his mother Helena flanking the True Cross, allegedly discovered by the empress on her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. If the assumption is true, this might be their oldest pictorial representation considering that the iconographic cult of Constantine and Helena reached florescence in the wake of iconoclasm. Their typical representation is made at that time and supposedly modelled on the imperial statues beside the True Cross in the Forum of Constantine in Constantinople, known only from literary sources. They appear in two basic versions: the emperor and empress, with arms close to the bodies or holding insignia, flanking the cross, whereas in the other version, they hold it or point to it. However, their position with arms raised in the orante posture has no similar evidence in art. In early Christian funerary art, the Orante posture was traditionally characteristic for the female figure praying for the deceased or a devotee in hope of salvation. Beginning with 4th century AD abounding in the New Testament themes, the Orante came to be a standard feature of representing saints, thus reflecting pure piety of Christian martyrs. Given the fact that the oil lamp from Singidunum depicts the nimbate figures, male and female alike, both saints might have been venerated. With that in mind, a certain analogy is found in the cult community of the Egyptian martyrs of Saint Menas and Saint Thecla, ascertained in iconography of numerous ampullae crafted as pilgrimage souvenirs at the sanctuary of Abu Mena near Alexandria. Schematic and rough portrayal of the saints' figures, without typical cult animals can be explained by the insufficient space in the lamp disk, i.e. overall decadence in craftsmanship of the late ancient lamps. The typical orans posture, the dotted band outlining the disk along with the nimbi technique, ornaments in the robes as well as the cross between the heads are clear indicators of the knowledge in art patterns of the holy pair of Saint Menas and Saint Thecla, i.e. typical ornamentation of ampullae from Alexandria. As they were depicted together in representations predominantly made on the ampullae between 480 and 560 AD, including the provincial craftsmanship of the poor quality lamp, it can be argued that its creation could be chronologically closer to the second half of 6th century. The lamp might have been created by a travelling craftsman in Singidunum itself, possibly commissioned by a local settler as an expression of imported cult practices, but so far undetected in the early byzantine art of our regions


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