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Cyprus Institute to Host Major Study on Rare Byzantine Mosaics



Stefania Chlouveraki, Vice President of the International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics and Assistant Professor at the University of West Attica (UNIWA), Department of Conservation of Antiquities and Works of Art is visiting the Cyprus Institute to study the materials and manufacturing techniques of a series of rare and particularly important wall mosaics of the Byzantine period. During her visit at STARC, working with Professor Thilo Rehren, the A. G. Leventis Chair in Archaeological Sciences, she focuses on two Byzantine mosaics from renowned monuments of Greece and Cyprus as well the micromosaic icons of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C.
The first assemblage of tesserae comes from the early 6th century AD wall mosaics of Panagia Kanakaria, one of the only two monasteries with surviving wall mosaics of the Early Christian Period in Cyprus, and the earliest remaining Byzantine image of the Mother of God with Christ child. Panagia Kanakaria is located in Lythragomi, in the occupied part of the island, and after the invasion, the mosaic was looted and parts of it were found on sale in different countries. After a 40-year-long worldwide investigation spearheaded by the Republic of Cyprus, all of the stolen mosaic segments were gradually repatriated in different phases from 1985 to 2018, and conserved at the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus in collaboration with the Department of Conservation of Antiquities and Works of Art, of UNIWA. Part of the mosaic is currently exhibited at the Byzantine Museum Archbishop Makarios III.
The second assemblage of tesserae comes from the wall mosaics of the Vatopaidi Monastery in Mount Athos, the only examples of wall mosaics in the entire peninsula, dating from the first half of the 12th to the late 13th century AD. The Vatopaidi mosaics are thought to have been created by artists who came from the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, and demonstrate the evolution of style and technology in mosaic art over two centuries.
Finally, the third assemblage consist of a set of minute (submillimeter) tesserae from the Dumbarton Oaks micromosaic icons; the icon of St. John Chrysostom (18cm x 13cm, made of approx. 30,000 tesserae) and the icon of the Forty Martyrs of Sebateia (22cm x 16cm, consisting of around 85,000 tesserae). These rare miniature mosaics, 2 of the 36 surviving in the world, best demonstrate the exceptional artistic skills and meticulousness of Byzantine artists. The materials and technology of their construction are still an unresolved question, as the mosaic tesserae are on the order of half a millimeter in size. A multidisciplinary investigation, involving also Dr Edward Vicenzi, Dr Thomas Lam and Dr. Keats Webb from the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute, Prof. Demetrios Makris and Prof. Stamatios Boyatzis from the University of West Attica in Athens, Dr Andreas Karydas and Dr Artemios Oikonomou from the NCSR Demokritos in Athens, Prof. Dimitris Anglos and Dr Aggelos Phillipidis from FORTH on Crete, Dr Gerald Poirier and Dr Jing Qu from the Advanced Materials Characterization Lab, University of Delaware, currently addresses key questions regarding the materials, the tools and the techniques employed in the creation as well as the artists and their workshops.



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