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Original scientific paper

Relief of King Petar Krešimir IV

Igor Fisković ; Filozofski fakultet, Odsjek za povijest umjetnosti, Zagreb

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Presenting a fairly wide-ranging researcb, tbis text attests to the evaluative signijicanee as weli t IS the meaning of a remarkable J7th-centUlY seuiptured marble representation on a royal subject malter preserved in Split. lt is tn/e evidence tbal, baving onginally been a plaque oftbe lavisb altar screen, it casts ligbt on not only problems of tbe tben plastic art but also the iconographic patterns as a summation of notions of tl cultural milieu at the very beginning of the central Middle Ages.
The figuralive language, which was nowarticulate after a centennial silence resulting in tbe equation between tbe conceptual alJd tlItistic motivalian, took on an impressive persuasiveness empbasizing the anticipated purposefulness. We have therefore been focused on this work of art, considerably interpreted by art historiansso fal;· in order to gain an insight not only into its origin but also into the lije of this cherished art treasure tbrougb its integral representation.
Perceiving the relief in the conteXl ofan exemplary unity offOl1n and content, its meaning and purpose and enentually its original concept as well as its fate, closely linked to the circumstances which have safeguarded it over the centuries, we have subjected it eilher lo close scrntiny or to conclusive arguments. 77Jey all entertain the basic idea that its execution was in reialion to tbe crowned head deserving of the uniJication of Dalmalia and Croatia who consequently eievated Ihe dignity of the coronation place by erecling a chancel at Solin, in close pmximity to the melropolitan city ofSplit, which was subsequently stripped of the plaque to be re-used as part oftbe baptismalf01ll ofSplil Cathedral.
Although Ihe original sculplured ensemble, an esse1llial component of which is the relief, is unique in many ways, il is vital that il corresponds with artistic tradition ofthe east coast ofthe Adt,atic at the time when society there gained its political independence. Fwthennore, it was connected lvith the most prominenI realm ofspin·luatity, which Ihrough Ihe agency of the Benedictine monks and under Ihe influence of Rome atike encompassed an area characterized bOlh by Ihe teachings ofthe Reformalion and the subordination of public crealivity to its demands. Translated into Ihe scuipturallanguage, they were not in conflict with its development, so that by holding on lO tbe end of Ihe Ihird quarter of Ihe eleljenih centwy, the narrative ofvarious events was slowlyfalling into place. For Ihis reason the indisputably dated relief commands a very complex analysis revelalary of both its exquisiteness and the enviable vibrancy of the realily from which it originated.
As confirmed by a number of publisbed texts on the relief, it had undoubtedly raised the queslions, which should have been ansu:ered with valid arguments subsequently given in my previous texts on Ihe same subject. Nevet1heless, certain simplistic interpretCttions have been reintroduced almost de/iOid ofthe essential message sent by this work afplastic al1. Even Ihe possibility thai it depicts a national sovereign in the consecraled area has been denied. Numberless figures ofbotb mythical and historical rnlers on mosaics on the church walls and paving, related figures on the medieval frescoes prove them wronl<, accompanied by the introduction of the same Ihemes on altarpieces ofprecious metals and as well as on stone preshylery screens, all inspired by the greatest number of mimalure painling patterns. In cognitive lerms sucb allempts were a slep backward for eilher omilIing lo read Ihe suhile details or nOI recognizing a sequence of earlier scienJific achievements. ln Irtllb, the frequent limitation ofal1 historical approach is at work here inclined to empbasize unverified novelties neglecIing to employ a wide spectrum ofknow/edge in order to detect problet,lS both posed and possibly solved by such a work ofart to tbe advantage ofthe intl?rpretation oftbe past iri genl?rai
ln the faith thai the latter is more important in the prese'lI phase oftbe deuelopment of alt history and archaeology, I have fOC!lSed 011 searching for conceptual andformative interconnections in the depiction ofthe nller accompanied by two figures in relief Quite understandably, in order to sori out matching exemp/ars, l neitbl?r predicted the width of tbe conclusive anao/ses nOr hesitated to expanel on them, Rradua/ly grasping the meaning ofthe reliefanel what it could reveal. EventlIally, the efforts elieln't prove futile but even more chal/enging in the light ofboth the previOUS interpretalialIS and what could be justifiably included inasmuch as il.' representation allolved.
So the dispwe slowlJ started lo take the shape ofan all-encompassing book, which wasn't the goal at first,' but proved justified for il had primary enabled the strengthening of the relatiollShip between verifiable historical facts and a concrete work ofart. From the alt historical standpoint this has brou8ht about the clanfication of tbe daum of tbe Romanesque art along tbe east caasl ofthe AdriatiC, not only in towns subjected lo the Ivili oftbe Cburch Fatbers but also in the milieu ofthe Kingdom of Croatia. Likewise, professional training of Mjed artists was put into practice and they were tbus singled out and taken from tbeir workshops on tbe basis oftheir individual e).pression. Such was the creator ofthis relief ranking alongside the leadinp, promoters ofthe style within the West European context. The most enduring interpretations of a series of works inte,1UJined with interurhan art production, crowned with the creator of the royal relieffrom the mideleuenth century, were reinforced in the very same way on both sides oftbe Adriatic. Anyhow, we shauldn't assume this expo.lition not to be open to fUriher questions or to additional information andfuture conectiollS. Still. it's of utmost impo'tance to stress that most approaches point to the vulue ofthe work as the main focus ofinterest not only for its excellence but also as cl remarkable testimony ofthe time and space.
C()nfrontation witb p()Iysemy of the selected work of art inescapably led to the realm ofpolitical and partly legislative history revelotory of not only general facts but also concrete events, i.e. its actual Jate.
lt il tbe reciprocity oftbl' colISlituent parts tbat be/p('ti us mid the circumstances ofboth its self-denying origin and uneven dural ion in a manner made possihle hy few old works ofm1 oftbc Croatian cultural heritage. The tOlality oJsynthe.lis and a complex possible interpmtation ofthe scene depicting three proltlgonists must have been dictated by particular conditions of its original purpose as lIJ"'I as the sub.lequent recognition of the marble screm plaque. It appears to be c,ucial that, tbough it sby all meanl a patt ofa sacred space thus displaying ceremonial charactli11stics, it wasn i intendedJar exclUSively ritual pwposes but aimed at tbe obseruClble profa'1e anes as //Jeli.
Sucb function alonR witb tbe depiction ofan. actllal biston·cal authorilyas its integral pari goe, beyond CI mere theological teacbing emhracing tbe ideology wbich brought il to life and denied lhe mystique qr a!legurical presentaliollS commonly attached to tbe medieval church furnishings. It's exactly the quality ojbeing a mirror ojreality that makes the reliej unique in its thematic and scu!ptural group, jar JelO similar achievements in Europejrom this period have been known or preseJved. Namely, as much as we succeeded 10 pene/rale the related material, we hare come to the conclusion that a jew depictions oj kings in reliej on screen slahs retain the symho/ical iconographic meaning mainly disconnected jrom local histoly. Our work oj art surpasses the general characteristics oj the known anes to Ihe e.: Having not jound any morphological simi/arities in the scu!ptural represenlations on Ihe same subject matter, it was viJal to detect possible sources in some other t.Jpes ojart production. Ibese werejaund in miniature painting characterized by well-dejined iconographic patterns in that cultural milieu with which Croatia had maintained long-lasting relations. Ibis has unveiled a work oj alt, which, inspired by political the%gy, makes use ojthe directions ojboth cultural and artistic communication in the Adriatic at the beginning oj tbe second millennium AD. Likewise, the figurative scene depicting three different characters tumed out to be lvideIy accepted scheme patterned after the anes can1ed out jar the occasion oj a deliberated and explicit statemeJu about the ruler's au.thorities and duties, the origin oj which can be traced down to antiquity. Jt displayed particular jeatures oj being subject to Christian be/iejs and was consequently rev/ved in the areas coinciding with spread oj the Beneventan script including the coast oj Dalmatia, which had always jostered special relations with them under the well-known circumstances during the jull swing oj the Rejormation.
Due to the effOrts oj the Benedictine monks and the emergence oj the national royal house, the time was ripe to introduce a distinctive commemorative reliej with these as its constituent parts, along with the inescapable symbolism, partly hieratic and slightly oj cembra! nature with actual historical impetus, which could have cast light on both time and space. Nevertheless, as they were treated in depth, they involved even more issues so it was oj vital importance to keep jacused on the vCI)' meaning oj the relief, shrouded in myster), by various interpretationsjar some hundred and fifty years (ever since it has attracted attention oj the scientists), so now that the work has heeJl done f dare say; to a larger extent than it should have been.
Ibese seeming mysteries were by all /IImns revealed by the very realization that the reliej could be inte1preted in no other manner but in its relation to religion and politiCS so characteristic oj such medjeval works. Still, in this respect it displays a deviation jrom customary execution oj the churcb equipment thus indicating to its origin robbed oj ritual purposes and inspired by centuries old compositional clich!! attesting to the harmony between the mcred and the sewlar. This sheds light on the e1nergence ojan autonomous society, which acquired the ability to proudly present its attainments. Consciously taking advantage ojthe tradition at hand, it also accepted novelties radiating jrom more developed centers as shown by morphology which summarizes the style ojthe mid-eleventh centUlJ'. Since it wasn 't patterned after objects ojapplied arts like a number ojscu!ptured parts oj the church jumishings jrom the same period, it speaks in the manner required by the then sculpture and complemented by direct connection with tbe artistic experi(mce oj the east caast oj [he Adriatic ji expresses ifs convincingness. HI!1'e it displays mOlphological similarities, if noi idl!1Uicalness wil/) thejiYU'sl pieces preserved in Zadar, ojthe same cu.,rl!1u ojtbe early Romanesqu.e arl in Dalmatia as well as its conception ill accordance with the corresponding architectural style as its original and natural jrame.
Consequently, tbe reliejanests to the image ojtln eartbly king, jar there is no indicalion at all that il depicts either Cbrist or tlny other ojHis symboliccll and allegarical substitutions. Namely, il has successfully been proved that it is the image oj Rex IusttIS, viewed as the merciful and just king who was the only one to see to that tbe jllStice qr God bad been dispensed as depicled in an excellentlyjumished cburch. lt is primarily revelatory oj tbe unity bet1veen the royal and papal powers, i.e. tbe demonslrable balance between regnum and sacerdotium in its essential iconograpbic characteristics. !bese lIJere applied bya small nu.mber oj regional rulers in order 10 stress tbeir significance based on the ancil!1lt perspective ojthe world and its bierarchy. TIJe VI!1)' jact that the king's neither ideally proportionetI nor represented alone hUl accompanied hy l1VO interconnect"d figures stands as evidence that the reliej eithl!1' speaks or is el'ucative oj an actual event.
Besides, the rigid representation ojthe enthroned figure with the royal insignia is at least recognizable by its hicrarchy whilsl the other two, though individual01 indistinguishable, can be inte/preted to a certain extent owing to their positions, size s and postures. !berejare, it 's conditionally possible to jollow the plol line that brings them together, modeled upon the well-known composition pattems related to the occasion ojroyal of!erings or granting a variety ojprivileges to InstitUtiOns or social groups which in such imperatively outlined represenlations were regularly depicted as separatejigures robbed oj any individual cbaracteristics.
!be obvious jact Ihat the insCription ru,ming aba!'e the reliej scene was chiseled of! jar the same reason as the object beld by the man standing at Ihe king 'sside stands ill the way oj Ibe conclusive interpretation oj the three participants. Removing Ihe co11Stituents ojthe original jigumUve scene, i.e. maki/lg it intentionally impossible jar !ts to comprehensivelJ read il, means either preventing tbe message jmm gelling across or erasing a memory oj an impol1ant event reduced to political and collectiue aim, not to the religious, the ideal and sacred one. T7Je latIeJ; name!v, wouldn 't have allowed Ihe action oj remodeling to be taken on a consecrated person, which leads us to Ihe waters ojthe local hiSlO,y at its turning pOint.
TlJel1! are allprospeclS that it 's the presentation ojan event which musi have had a certain impact on tbe social li/e and related 10 the activities oj the civil administration authority, the representative ojwhich was the king as Ihe supreme ruler along with .the churcb autbority whicb pennWed the swlptured scene to be placed at the chancelan the lavish screen plaque. It 's exactly the non-liturgical ojthe scene in terms ojils possible histOrical sources that was the cause jar its alteration as thepivetal idea ojour inte,pretations. ln this respect the special assignment was to identify the represented king, oj course, nOI by means oj recognizing the individual characteristics oj his .po,1raitČ but by grasping wbat could bave been given to the concept oj the scene by one oj tbe known east Adriatic rules ecclesiaslicallife led in West Europe. For Ihis reason he bad already come into conjlict with KreSimir rv, which would eventually lead to his mysterious disappearance followed by Zvonimir's arrival which coincided with tbe political subjecliOn to Rome modeled upon tbe vassal relationship PUl inlo practice by Gregory 's Church in otber parts !lS well.
Such an end sbedS light on Ihe fate of this norable relief, incessantlv used as a proof ofthe opening lines lo ils content in Ihe Ihird qUa/ter ofthe eleventh cel1lury. Addressing the sperific issues related to the political agendel and spirituul inslghts ofKreSimi,.'s era, the scene was remode/ed due to the changed relatiun between the Crown and the Church. Since tbe insCription, which complemented the picture, was erased whereas the object held by th" fig ure standing at the king 's side was chiseled out, it is evident that the assumption that he had guaranleed celtaill legal rights, which explicilly stood in Ihe way of Ibe new order, is correct.
lt is for thL' reason that the depiction of an earth0i ruler was not removed but no trace was lejl of his original political impact and auainments in such a manner that it neither desecrated his representation nor obstructed the ritual ce-remonies. Allyway the helief that the chiseled off object was in fact a scroll as depicted in a variety of illuminated miniatures of West European codius as well as the possibility that the erased letters read LEGEM .. . DAT, make it easier to comprehensively inte-rpret the contents ofthe reliej Coupled with the figures ofss Peter and Moses, it makes il possible for us to discern that it displayed the offiCial interconneclion between the Church and the state that had been transfarmed since the year 1075 by the newly forged alliance with Rome thus heing an unacceptable witness to the former order in the strongly fell presence of the Pope's authority. This may lead to the conclusion that the act ofdamnatio memoriae had been pe1formed on the occasion of Zvonimir's coronation at the Solin hasilica.
lt is maSI probably from this church that the king relief was taken to thc adjacent town ofSplit ajler the holy site had died out due to the disappearance of the Croatian state. II appears that Zvonimir had already cIonated this sacred building to the Split archbishoplic consigning it to oblivion espeCially upon the departure of the Eenedieline monk s il1 the twelfth century when it was gradually stripped 0/ its equipment, which marked the commencement of its falling into a state of dilapidation, Indeed, the rulurs of the Kingdom 0/ Hungary and Croatia cite the monastery station of ss Peter and Moses in number/ess chaJtel;; but il is quite clear that it inlerests them only as the Church 's property and by no means as a place ofworship amid this desalate area. Local establishmel1ls, supported by the new authorities, took advantage ofthe precious building material from the ruins ofSolin. 7bere is a high probabilitl' that this churcb was tumed into ({ quany during the const11lction works undertaken by the Split Curia as Ihe land owner wben the slabs of the sumptuous cancel/o, still intact by Ihal time, were taken from the dilapidated and prohahly halfdemolished structure.
ln some sort ofa hUrl)" espeCially those with the braided omamentation of were used to fo"n Ihe baptismal font at SI John the Eaptist'S Baptistery in the precinets of Split Cathedra!. Althoup,h the excellence of their decorative quality was not denied, the relief depicting the King of Croatia was neglecle-d in the prucess for il had been laid jlank-wise on the jront oj the cruci/onn baptismal jont. The damage done to it on this occasion muti/ated the bannony oj the jigurative scene but didn 't eliminate the possibility oj gelling into the meaning as well as oj revealing some lillle secrets like erasure ojthe insCription or removing the scroll jrom the hancIs ojthe Kinl(S escort. Discovering the modes and reasons for possible intervenlions on Ihe reliej has corifinned both its prominent original pwpose and role in the hannonization of relations between the main components
oj a well-ordered society capable oj expressing itself during the reign oj Petar Kre;imir rv. ft bas also helped this work oj an to take root in the course of historical circumstances characterized by the change of statement about that unity leaving the value ojthe sculptural work intact.
ft's the relief, which doem 't jollow blindly the example oj any other work of art oj the same material and pU/pase thus remainillg the most notable artistic testimony ojthe zenith reached during the development oj the Old Kingdom oj Croatia. The additional interventions on the scme aimed at inte1ering with its meaning, along u1th direct annihilation oj undoubtedly more explicit insCription, pusiHvely show that the compositioJl stood for a lasting record oj an actual historical event. The scene didn 't bave a tendency towards a mere imitation but an ideal representation as well as its transjonnation interwoven with religious and theological teachings. ft was therefore vital to consider its background as much as possible in tenns oj both history and art development, which hadn 't been satisfactOrily associated with the other speci/ics on the creation oj the relief Through ati oj these combined it was imperative to conceive oj the world represented in this work ofart revelatory ojthe idea ojwhat had imprinted itself indelibly on the milieu in which it had been brought to life It's tbese readings in the context oja conclusive prooj oja deliberate alteration ojcertain details in the jigurative scene tbat guarantee the authenticity oj the reliejdespite ils otherwise weU-known subJect matter.
ln adopting such cl multi-disCiplinary approach, it is extremely important that by its sty/istic and m01fJhological ciJaracleristics the work was neither uncommon in Dalmatia nor stood alone in terms oj its plastic treatment. This aspect ojits appearance had already been enlightened, being a trnsted starting point jar our analyses, and re/eoanlto its integration i11l0 Ihe development oj the main art stream oj Ihe east coast oj the Adriatic. This has been conjinned by the new inte1fJrelation oj its origin at Solin, which was closely linked to Zadar as a leading art center al One time but aulanomaus jar her experimentation as one ojthe more prominent seats oj the House ofthe Ttpimirovićs.
On Ihis basis arose the question ofdating such a work, which actually leads us to the reign ojPetar Krešimir IV, a part ojwhose political agenda, effectively connected with urban centers, was the principal religious estahlishment based in Split. Its jurisdiction and claims were to a large extent responsiblejor the rejection ojuntil recelltly prevailing thesis that the relief had originally come jrom this tOW/l. ln this context it couldn't have bem inte,preted as an autonomous creation regardless oj how strong its ties with the Rejonnation teachings and requests were. It appears thaI in tenns ojcontents it heller fits Petar Krešimir IV's aspirations. who as King was linked to Rome not only offiCially but also byfamily ties to the supreme circles oj the Roman Catholic world. In this respect we can 't exclude the possibility oj contact with more distant countries and not only neighhors
for the art heritage of!Jis time displaya number ofsIriking similarilies to
Veneto and Hungary and there is this aUuring question of Ibe n del" following
the ex:ample of Henry 11 pll'or to the lalter's canonizalion.
It is apparently the reconciliation of all Ihese opposiles within the Church linked to the royal court that resulted in this mtistic parable, which in a typically medicIiai manner brings togelber Ibe relief and the remains ofthe congeneric artifacts from Šuplja Crkva al Solin.
Fowsing on this we hauen 'I succeed~d to reueal the contenis of the otber figu ralive reliefpaired up with tbe royal scene. ln all pro/1ability it depicted SS Peler and .Hoses as the tilU/aiS ofthe church and supreme representatives of the genuine sPilituai bonds on which Ihe iJm-mony of Ibe eleventh centUlJI was based. It was therefore an illustration of moral ideals of a life ensured by the specific politics d,scernible in a number of direct and coincidental documents. Eager inlenlion was to preseni its success in a manner, which is not onlJ undoubtedly promotional il1 its na·ture but also aimed to bear witness to historical reality. Jt clear/y manifested itsel( in structural bond, typical ofthis period, between Ihe seen and Ihe experiencedfor the contemporaries and something established long ago in religious bistory as the irrefulable trutb.
Thus one relief complements Ihe other underlining their interconneclion and even finn inlerdependence as illuslraled with the relation belween the Church and the stale both subject lO the law of Cod. \Ve have been inclined lo inte,prellhese conclusions as a resulI ofthe reign ofPetar Kre )mir IV, who being head of IheJUSI foundrd Kingdom of Croatia and Dalmatia and living in hannony with Ihe Church understandabiJ needed to demonstrate the reach of his authority as well as to confirm, thinking of Ihe futu re, Ihe basic principles of ruling CI slate.
Hence the hieralic representation close to iconic t)pes known by othe,' art media from the preceding periods brougbt closer to tbe dawn of the Romanesque art but nOI by the contempormJl scufpture ofIhe same size as our relief Evidenlly, This sculplural creation was sel(-sufficient, centrin,~ on the specific meaning so that the well-pmportioned ornamentation on the same slah didn 't elirich but calmed down the composition making it comprehensible to its lime. Such a work ofart could be considered as general at the cmssroad to tradition and innovation or both combined in the mid-eleventh centUlJI, while in compmison with other contempora/JI works ofdifferent kind hut related to it in tenns ofidea, we can conclude that little was innavative for the occasion. AlthouglJ it reflected confined quality OI' visual reality, it didn't sarmounl the genem! artistic and iconograpbic achievements of that time. lit accordance with their rules in effect in the Middle Ages its meaning was detemtined, if not exactly gi/!en Iben by all 17Uians explained, by its art fonn rendered under the very specific hislolical conditions. This means thai its promotional intent, that is lo say moral purpose, was its primary goal to successfully detennine Ihe realistic and symbo/icallegibility ofa swfptural work of art.


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