Dynamic Splendor: The Wall Mosaics in the Cathedral of Eufrasius at Poreč (review)
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Reviewed by
Ann Terry and Henry Maguire Dynamic Splendor: The Wall Mosaics in the Cathedral of Eufrasius at Poreč, 2 vols. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007 Pp. xxvii + 429; 300 illustrations. $95.

Ann Terry and Henry Maguire make a formidable team as is attested by this impressive two-volume publication on the Justinianic mosaics in the Cathedral of bishop Eufrasius at Parentium (Poreč, Croatia). They have derived a truly extraordinary amount of information from a careful, tessera-by-tessera examination of the mosaics. While they focus principally on subjects such as evidence for a sixth-century date for the mosaics, conservation interventions, and methods of work, historians of the late ancient Mediterranean and of religion will find much here of interest. Terry and Maguire subtly examine the relationships between patronage, doctrine, artistic materials, and images. Beautifully and extensively illustrated with color photographs of the mosaics in the basilica together with a generous number of comparanda, this book recuperates for scholars a major, long ignored monumental program.

The usefulness of the mosaics in the Basilica of Eufrasius for our understanding of art in the Justinianic period has long been doubted because of their restoration. Terry and Maguire's greatest contribution is their meticulous evaluation of both the conservation history of the monument and the physical evidence, which leads them to the convincing conclusion that most of the mosaics are original. In the body of the text, in an appendix, and in documentary drawings, they clearly identify original and restored areas, distinguishing as well between sixth-century iconographic elements and new ones imposed during the three phases of conservation (one early eighteenth- and two late nineteenth-century).

In the first two chapters, the authors present the lively history of the mosaics and the politics of restoration. In chapter 3 they demonstrate the unambiguously close ties between the mosaics and sculpture at Poreč and Ravenna, persuasively establishing a date of ca. 550 for the former. In chapter 4, "Mosaic Artistry in Sixth-Century Poreč," they brilliantly explain the subtle and complex working method and style of the mosaics. Some of their analysis is so unusual that it calls for elaboration here. For example, they show that the rarest and smallest of the tesserae were used for the face of Eufrasius with a descending hierarchy next including the faces of the Virgin Mary and Christ. Tesserae made with inexpensive materials, such as limestone and brick, were used with greater frequency in [End Page 127] the side apses. Through an examination of materials and techniques they deduce that the artists completed the central apse first, then moved to the northern, and finally southern apses. They also consider such subjects as texture, light, color, composition, the movement of spectators, and "visual pleasure" (95) as components of an historically specific aesthetic.

Most publications of mosaics include extensive analysis of iconography with little or no consideration of style and rare treatment of materials. Terry and Maguire have effectively done the opposite, of necessity in this case because of the need to establish which parts of the mosaics (material and iconographic) are original. As is indicated by the subjects they examine in chapter 4, it is apparent that they have extracted considerably more information from this close study than which parts of it are original. Additionally, in chapters 5 and 6 they address iconography and iconology, evaluating the subjects depicted and assessing their significance. In chapter 6 they pay the greatest attention to the relationship between the iconography and its immediate historical context, considering, for example, specific features in the mosaics in light of the Three Chapters Controversy and ideas about the Trinity. They are even able to ascribe meaning to materials and to ubiquitous subjects such as shells, explaining that the shells interspersed with mother of pearl roundels not only add to the beauty of the work for the late antique beholder with their varying lustrous qualities and colors but also contribute to the significance of the program by representing the Virgin's womb (the shell) and Christ (the pearl).

I find one aspect of chapter 6 problematic, and that is the interpretation of some elements in the program as "private." Before a...


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