April 5, 2018

On Thursday, April 5, a public lecture from the series Middle Ages, differently took place in the Hans Belting Library. The lecture titled On the Path towards Eternity: The Face of the Empress between Illusion and Representation was presented by Teodora Georgievova.

The portrait, which was used as a tool of presenting the official position of the imperial couple, made up the "second identity" of the rulers. It was as though all the things, which were happening within the image, were also happining to the real-life monarch.

In order to establish themselves within the public political scene, the wifes of the rules, who possessed a very important public function - to bear the offspring and thus to secure the continuation of the dynasty, had to hinder their own femininity and push forward their image as an empresses rather than as a woman. As a result, their visual representations followed the same pattern. Here, their dignity and authority was manifested by means of motionlessness, a hard stare, and rugged contours.

Within her lecture, the author focused on the various functions the portraits of emperors and empresses in particular performed in the political, economical, and military realms, as well as on the visuality of the cult of the imperial image. In addition, we also discussed the question of the transformation of such visual tradition as connected to the overall transformation of the role of women in society during the 4-6th centuries; in particular, to what extent the image of the empress was influenced by either her public function or the representation of her sexuality.

All in all, we concluded the session by recognizing the image of the empress as a tool of representation, which was manufactured to create an ideal imperial image, in the exact way in was desired and required to be perceived.

Katarína Kravčíková