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The two artworks being compared are the Virgin of Compassion icon and the art of Female personification (Tellus). In the late eleventh century and early twelfth century, the Virgin of Compassion icon was primarily created to communicate the faith of God to believers and express community visions. However, between 9-13 BCE, Female personification (Tellus) was created as a panel on the east façade of the Ara Pacis Augustae, Rome, Italy. The two arts are compared based on the following aspects: subject, style, material and technique, patronage, and audience.
The subject of female personification (Tellus) in Ara Pacis Augustae was fine art, visual, sculpture, and female. The two female figures and two children symbolized fertility, which Augustus encouraged people to marry and have children to promote the Roman empire and increase the population (Ionescu 3). Therefore, the figure represented peace as fruits of Augusta and round the goddess was magnanimous earth that was in blossom and creatures of diverse species living peaceably with each other. On the other hand, the Virgin of compassion icon was a Byzantine icon portraying the Virgin and Child as subject matter. It depicted art with distinct features as loving-kindness, merciful love, and a Virgin of compassion and tenderness (Demir 1). The painting was iconic due to its role in protecting the Slavs from their enemies. The child and mother are depicted to united with their cheeks pressed against each other, showing love and compassion.
Tellus figure used carving as a style of art in the ancient Roman empire, and the object type at the time was comprised of architectural elements, altar, sculpture, and relief sculpture (Ionescu 2). On the contrary, the painting was used as a style of artwork in the Virgin of compassion icon (“Art: Icon of the Virgin of Vladimir”). A Hellenic iconographer painted the icon in Constantinople during the 11th and 12th centuries.
The material used in making artwork of Tellus were marbles using carving as a technique of artwork (Ionescu 6). The altar of Augustan Peace was developed to demonstrate a new moral code promoted by Augustus and the establishment of imperial iconography. Unlike in Virgin of compassion icon, the material used were wood panel, canvas, and gesso while technique employed was tempera, silver, and gilding (“Art: Icon of the Virgin of Vladimir”). The painting also used dark colors and gold colors to distinguish the special moment presented in the icon.
Emperor Augustus was the patron for Ara Pacis, a shrine comprising of marble altar in confined inclusion established in Campus Martius of Rome in commemoration of the emperor Augustus. The structure of Ara Pacis was dedicated in 9 BCE and commissioned in 13th BCE. Upon the proposition of the altar to be built in the Curia, Augustus declined and opted to place it close to his vault in the Campus Martius (Ionescu 2). Demir asserts that the compassion icon was the life work of St. Luke, and the Byzantine emperor sent it to the Russian ruler (2). Byzantine emperor believed that the icon communicated the faith of people and expression of the community’s vision.
Goddess Tellus Relief, Ara Pacis was on the eastern wall side of the Altar of the Augustan Peace in Rome. It was mainly used during celebrations of the Roman state faith, which were immersed deeply in rituals and traditions (Ionescu 4). Therefore, the audience of the Tellus figure were Roman state religious persons. The sculptures represented the dedication ceremonies of the shrine, and floral motifs were regarded as the finest art of Roman.
Virgin of compassion icon was located in Vladimir, a place that was the religious capital of Russia. The icon then was moved to Moscow, when it became the religious capital. The icon was mainly used as a symbology and inspiration to believers and theologians (Demir 5). The image was used to celebrate significant state ceremonies, elections of patriarchs, and coronations of tsars as a religious icon. Russian people consider the icon a sacred treasure expressing unity like that shown by the loyalty of mother and child.
“Art: Icon of the Virgin of Vladimir.” Annenberg Learner, 2019.
Demir, Hatice. “From A 12th Century Constantinople Atelier to 21st Century Icon Productions.’’ Logo, The Story of Our Lady of Vladimir.” 2021, Pp. 884-892.
Ionescu, Dan-Tudor. “The Ara Pacis Augustae: Symbolic Iconography and Mythology of the Friezes.” The Ara Pacis Augustae: Symbolic Iconography and Mythology of the Friezes, 2013, pp. 99-174.