Mediating presence: curtains in Middle and Late Byzantine imperial ceremonial and portraiture
AuthorParani, Maria G.
SourceByzantine and Modern Greek Studies
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Curtains constituted a standard component of the scenography of imperial ceremonies during the Middle and Late Byzantine period. This paper explores how curtains were used to control and ritualise sensory and perceptual access to the sacred person of the emperor and to manipulate emotive response to ritual performances. It also enquires into the way in which curtains, both as material objects and as symbols, were employed by those staging imperial ceremonies in order to articulate and communicate messages regarding the nature of the emperor's authority and his special status vis-à-vis his subjects. Paradoxically, the performative and symbolic potential that ensured the curtains’ use in imperial ceremonies led to their exclusion from the representation of the emperor in imperial portraiture, since post-Iconoclastic art did not admit veiled secrets.