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The Mantle of Roger II of Sicily

  • William Tronzo
Chapter
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

The subject of this chapter is one of the most extraordinary examples of the textile art to have come down to us from the entire Middle Ages, the Mantle of Roger II now in the Treasury of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (Figure 10.1).2 The mantle is a half circle of scarlet samite, 345 cm wide and 146 cm long, encrusted with enamels, pearls, and gems, and it displays, in gold and silk embroidery, a figure that is spectacular in its boldness and simplicity: the doubled image of a lion, triumphant over the camel he holds tightly in his grip, to either side of a palm tree that spreads outward from the center. What might have been analogous to the mantle in a certain sense is the contemporary garb of the Byzantine emperor: an anonymous ekphracist of the twelfth century tells us that Manuel I Komnenos wore a robe decorated with addorsed griffins.3 But nothing quite like it has survived from Byzantium, nor is anything similar attested in the Latin West.4

Keywords

Palm Tree Twelfth Century Metropolitan Museum Exhibition Catalogue Holy Roman Emperor 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    Erwin Margulies, “Le Manteau impérial du Trésor de Vienne et sa doublure,” Gazette des Beaux Arts ser. 6, 9 (1933), pp. 360ff.; Ugo Monneret de Villard, “Le tessitura palermitana sotto i normanni e i suoi rapporti con larte bizantina,” Miscellanea Giovanni Mercati, 1 (Vatican City, 1946), pp. 464ff.; Hermann Fillitz, Die Insignien und Kleinodien des Heiligen Römischen Reiches (Vienna: A. Scholl, 1954), pp. 23ff, 57f.; Filippo Pottino, “Le vesti regali normanne dette dellincoronazione,” Atti del convegno internazionale di studi ruggeriani, 21–25 aprile 1954, 1 (Palermo, 1955), pp. 291ff.; Josef Deér, The Dynastic Porphyry Tombs of the Norman Period in Sicily (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1959), pp. 40ff.; Tarif Al Samman, “Arabische Inschriften auf den Krönungsgewandern des Heiligen Römischen Reiches,” Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien 78 (1982), pp. 7ff.; Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. The Secular and Ecclesiastical Treasuries: Illustrated Guide (Vienna: Residenz Verlag, 1991), pp. 136ff; David Jacoby, “Silk in Western Byzantium Before the Fourth Crusade,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 84/85 (1991/92), pp. 464ff; Rotraud Bauer, “Il manto di Ruggero II,” I normanni, popolo d’Europa 1030–1200 (exhibition catalogue), ed. Mario D’Onofrio (Venice: Marsilio Editori, 1994), pp. 279ff.; William Tronzo, The Cultures of His Kingdom. Roger II and the Cappella Palatina in Palermo (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), pp. 142ff; Oleg Grabar, “The So-Called Mantle of Roger II,” in “The Experience of Islamic Art,” forthcoming. I am grateful to Professor Grabar for allowing me to read his paper before publication.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Henry Maguire, “The Heavenly Court,” Byzantine Court Culture from 829 to 1204, ed. Maguire (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1997), pp. 253f.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    See, for example, Eduard Eichmann, “Von der Kaisergewandung im Mittelalter,” Historisches Jahrbuch 58 (1938), pp. 273ff.; Sakrale Gewänder des Mittelalters, Ausstellung im bayerischen Nationalmuseum, München, 8. Juli bis 25 September 1955 (Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 1955); Percy Ernst Schramm and Florentine Mutherich, Denkmale der deutschen Könige und Kaiser: Ein Beitrag zur Herrscherge schichte von Karl dem Grossen bis Friedrich II. 768–1250 (Munich: Prestel Verlag, 1962), pp. 44ff.; Die Zeit der Staufer, 1 (1977), pp. 607ff., 5, pp. 389ff.; Anna Muthesius, Studies in Byzantine and Islamic Silk Weaving (London: The Pindar Press, 1995), passim; Guido Fauro, “Le vesti nel ‘De ceremoniis aulae byzantinae’ di Costantino VII Porfirogenito,” in Arte profana e arte sacra a bisanzio, ed. Antonio Jacobini and Enrico Zanini (Rome, 1995), pp. 489ff. For a textile attributed to Palermo with the inscription, “operato in regio ergast [erio],” see Federico e la sicilia: dalla terra alla corona. Arti figurative e arti suntuarie (exhibition catalogue), ed. Maria Andaloro (Palermo: Ediprint, 1995), p. 99, figs. 13.1–13.2.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Hermann Fillitz, Die Schatzkammer in Wien. Symbole abendländischen Kaisertums (Salzburg and Vienna: Residenz Verlag, 1986), fig. 5.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    For a recent discussion with bibliography, see Hans Rudolf Meier, Die normannischen Königspaläste in Palermo. Studien zur hochmittelalterlichen Residenzbaukunst (Worms: Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1994). Bauer, above, n. 2, relates these buildings to the mantle but with a different purpose.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    Ibid., pp. 68ff.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Romuald of Salerno, Chronicon, in Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, ed. Ludovico Antonio Muratori 7 (repr. of 1725 ed., Bologna: Arnaldo Forni Editore, 1977), p. 194. For the poetic description of the Favara by ‘Abd ar-Rahman of Trapani, see Gli arabi in Italia, ed. Francesco Gabrieli and Umberto Scerrato (Milan: Garzanti, 1993), p. 738 (Italian trans.).Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    Liber ad honorem augusti sive de rebus Siculis, Codex 120 II der Burgerbibliothek Bern. Eine Bilderchronik der Stauferzeit, ed. Gereon Becht-Joerdens, Theo Koelzer, and Marilis Staehli (Sigmaringen: Jan Thorbecke Verlag, 1994), fol. 98r, p. 47.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    Giuseppe Bellafiore, Giardini e parchi della Palermo normanna (Palermo: Flaccovio Editore, 1996), p. 27. See also the discussion of Rosario La Duca, Cartografia generale della città di Palermo e antiche carte della Sicilia (Naples: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, 1975), pp. 15ff.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    Otto Demus, The Mosaics of Norman Sicily (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., 1949), Figures 26B–28A, 94A–97B.Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    Ibid., pp. 178ff.Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    Lucia Travaini, “Aspects of the Sicilian Norman Copper Coinage in the Twelfth Century,” Numismatic Chronicle 151 (1991), pp. 159–74, pl. 26, no. 2.Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    Philip Grierson, “Guglielmo II o Ruggero II? Una attribuzione errata,” Rivista italiana di numismatica e scienze affini 91 (1989), pp. 195–204.Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    Philip Grierson, Byzantine Coins (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1982), passim.Google Scholar
  15. 22.
    See Deér (above, n. 2), pp. 66ff., and the study of Willy Hartner and Richard Ettinghausen, “The Conquering Lion, The Life Cycle of a Symbol,” Orlens 17 (1964), pp. 161 ff., esp. pp. 164ff.Google Scholar
  16. 23.
    Tronzo, Cultures (as above, n. 2), 142, n. 31. The Byzantine emperor Manuel I Komnenos was compared to a palm tree; see Henry Maguire, “Images of the Court,” in The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era A.D. 843–1261 (exhibition catalogue), ed. Helen C. Evans and William D. Wixom (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997), p. 185.Google Scholar
  17. 24.
    Willene B. Clark, “The Illustrated Medieval Aviary and the Lay-Brotherhood,” Gesta 21 (1982), pp. 63ff.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 25.
    Penelope C. Mayo, “The Crusaders Under the Palm: Allegorical Plants and Cosmic Kingship in the Liber Floridus,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 27 (1973), pp. 29ff.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 26.
    The royal garden, of course, had a long history in the Mediterranean world, against the backdrop of which the Norman phenomenon might be viewed with profit; to cite only one of many studies, see, for example, Elizabeth B. Moynihan, Paradise as a Garden in Persia and Mughal India (New York: George Braziller, 1979), pp. 5ff.Google Scholar
  20. 27.
    See the entry on “Camels” in the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, ed. Alexander Kazhdan (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 368. The camel is depicted on the facade of Saint Gilles-du-Gard together with a pair of apes, which were considered wicked creatures in the Middle Ages; see Whitney S. Stoddard, The Facade of Saint-Gilles-du-Gard. Its Influence on French Sculpture (Middletown CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1973), p. 59, fig. 71 (I owe this reference to Eva Hoffman). Apart from the context of the biblical narrative, the image of the camel in medieval Sicilian art is rare; see Ugo Monneret de Villard, Le pitture musulmane al soffitto delia Cappella Palatina in Palermo (Rome: La Libreria dello Stato, 1950), fig. 250 (ceiling of the Cappella Palatina); Federico II e la Sicilia (above, n. 4), 1:171 (ivory box in the Cappella Palatina, Palermo). Of course, not all images of the camel carried negative connotations; see Glen Bowersock, Roman Arabia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), pp. 83f. (use of the image on coins); The Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century, ed. Kurt Weitzmann (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977), p. 578, no. 517 (ivory plaque with St. Menas flanked by camels).Google Scholar
  21. 28.
    Peter Cornelius Claussen, “Renovatio Romae. Erneuerungsphasen römischer Architektur im 11. und 12. Jahrhundert,” Rom im hohen Mittelalter. Studien zu den Romavorstellungen und zur Rompolitik vom 10. bis zum 12. Jahrhundert. Reinhard Elze zur Vollendung seines siebzigsten Lebensjahres gewidmet, ed. Bernhard Schimmelpfennig and Ludwig Schmugge (Sigmaringen: Jan Thorbecke Verlag, 1992), p. 100.Google Scholar
  22. 29.
    Procopius, The Secret History, trans. G. A. Williamson (London: The Folio Society, 1990), p. 55.Google Scholar
  23. 30.
    Helene Wieruzowski, “Roger II of Sicily, Rex-Tyrannus in Twelfth-Century Political Thought,” Speculum 38 (1963), pp. 46–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Stewart Gordon 2001

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  • William Tronzo

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