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Work The Tyche of Constantinople

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Christian Egypt (fourth - twelfth centuries AD)

The Tyche of Constantinople

© Musée du Louvre

Egyptian Antiquities
Christian Egypt (fourth - twelfth centuries AD)

Author(s):
Meurice Cédric

This inscribed and painted tablet, found in Edfu (Upper Egypt), shows an allegory of a city in the form of a "Tyche" - a crowned female figure. We know from the Greek inscription "the flourishing beauty" that this is the Tyche of Constantinople; it is the only known Egyptian representation of this particular Tyche.

Description

This tablet, originally part of a larger work, was reassembled from the six pieces found during H. Henne's excavations (in 1921-22) of a once inhabited site. Inscriptions frame a painted female figure, wearing a brown cloak with a pattern of three white dots, over an ocher tunic with a green beaded front of white dots inside diamond shapes. The tunic is probably fastened with a belt. The face with its wide open eyes and well defined eyebrows is framed by thick, wavy, shoulder-length hair, adorned by a string of white beads. The woman is wearing heavy earrings and a turreted crown, the right side of which cannot be seen because of the crack in the tablet. A female figure wearing a crown of this kind is the personification of a city; in this case, a Greek inscription on either side of this face indicates that the city in question is "the flourishing beauty" - in other words, Constantinople. The Tyche is holding a long pole (simply rendered by a single red line) in her raised right hand.

The Tyche

Personifications of cities were common from the Greek and Roman periods onward, and they had a variety of attributes. The Tyche was represented either standing or sitting. The representation of the city on this tablet is accompanied by the hieratic name it was given when Constantinople was inaugurated on 11 May 330: Anthusa. This object is all the more remarkable as personifications of cities (in whatever medium) were rare in Egypt.

The inscriptions

The paint has chipped off in several places, revealing an underlying text written in Christo-Palestinian or Melkite-Aramaic, indicating that the tablet was re-used to paint the figure. The text, written in black ink, is truncated on all four sides. It was arranged in four columns, each of which contained a different text: a verse from the Gospel of Luke, two verses from the Gospel of John, and a passage from an Epistle of Paul. There is Arabic writing on the back of the tablet.

Bibliography

- RUTSCHOWSCAYA M.-H., La Peinture copte, RMN, 1992, p. 30, 31 et n°40.

- RUTSCHOWSCAYA M.-H.(et al.), L’Egypte ancienne au Louvre, Hachette, 1997, p. 247-248.

- RASSART-DEBERGH M., De l’icône païenne à l’icône chrétienne, Le Monde Copte 18, novembre 1990, p. 57-58, fig. 16.

Technical description

  • The Tyche of Constantinople

    7th century

    Edfu

    Edfu

  • Painted and inscribed wood; oil-based binder

    H. 27 cm; W. 18.60 cm; D. 0.70 cm

  • Gift of the Egyptian government (division of excavation finds), 1921-22

    AF 10878, AF 10879

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Lower ground floor
    Gallery of Coptic art
    Room B

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