Pyle of Sts Constantine and Helen, 1760

3 November 2011

Dimensions: 310 x 210 cm.

Here the subject of the decoration is divided into two zones: in the upper part, against a sea-blue background, the Eternal Father is seated amid the angelic choir and gives His blessing with both hands. In the lower part, Sts Constantine and Helen are standing; they hold a large cross between them with one hand and have a sceptre, the imperial sceptre, in the other. They are wearing the Byzantine imperial robes. The two zones are linked by flying angels who hold the diadems of the two saints, which are here the imperial crowns. Constantine is shown as “young, with the beginnings of a beard and with sunken cheeks” in accordance with the prescription of the Interpretation of Dionysios of Fourna, while Helen is “advanced in years”.

The scene is embroidered on red velvet and is surrounded by floral decoration in a chain-like curve. The Proskynetarion, Codex 93 of the Monastery, pp. 40-41, of the year 1760, informs us that “it was made in Vienna recently by the trader Ioasaph of Paros, by means of the ‘manganon’ [frame]”42. The fact that the pyle does not follow the usual practice of giving the name of the donor is probably to be accounted for by wear of the bottom of the ornament. The purely Western inspiration of the scene is indicative of its Viennese origin.