Terracotta tiles such as this were mould made, to ease in mass production. They were designed in various shapes; rectangular, square or quadrangular, and their specific shape was determined by their aesthetic function as a decorative element. They were added to the outside of buildings and could detail scenes from the Old and New Testaments, faces of Christ and other prolific Biblical figures, as well as abstract floral and animal motifs. Their production was focused in Byzacena (present day Tunisia) and large numbers of examples are currently housed in the The National Bardo Museum. The tiles, aided by their production method, follow a series of artistic rules, largely governed by those applied to late Roman and Christian art. There is a flatness to the relief which focuses on frontal depiction and simplified form.
Byzantine Terracotta Tile with Face of Christ
A Byzantine square terracotta tile moulded in low relief, depicting the face of Christ. The face itself constitutes a heart-shaped head, featuring a large triangular nose and almond-shaped eyes. The mouth, a deeply incised line, is framed by an inverted triangular beard, indicated by deep ridges. Hair frames the face, again indicated with the same deep ridges, and frames Christ’s hollow cheeks. A circular halo, formed from circular pellets, frames the entire facial composition. The magnificence of Christ is depicted further through the use of pigment, a series of painted white and red rays. Black pigment has been applied to the pupils and hair for further definition. Remnants of red paint can also be seen on the face, used to indicate a deep skin tone. The reverse features an indented ‘x’, possibly from the removal of the tile from its mould. A rare piece in exceptional condition.
Provenance: Ex Alison Barker (Deceased) collection
Condition: Excellent condition. Still retains original pigment. Chip to top right corner. Some natural abrasions.