The Archangel Michael, leaf of a diptych

The Archangel Michael, leaf of a diptych

Date Early 6th century CE

Movement Byzantine

Medium Ivory

Dimensions 17 x 5.5″

Housed at The British Museum, London


This would have been paired with a mirrored figure (now lost), and was commissioned by Justinian, perhaps as a proclamation of his humility (the text above reads “Receive these gifts, and having learned the cause…”). The work draws upon Classical architectural devices (note the Corinthian capitals and rosettes). Like contemporaneous works, it does not appear to make spatial sense—Michael’s feet atop the steps appear behind the flanking columns, while his upper body appears to spring before them; Michael figure does not quite appear of this world with the dimensions used.