Παρατηρήσεις στις παραστάσεις της πλάκας Τ. 95 του Βυζαντινού ΜουσείουPart of : Δελτίον της Χριστιανικής Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας ; Vol.34, 1992, pages 271-276
Observations on the Depictions on plaque T. 95 in the Byzantine Museum
Depicted on the plaque T. 95 (originally from Naxos)in the sculpture and relief collection of the ByzantineMuseum are two vertically arranged scenes from theNativity cycle (Fig. 1). The small section preservedabove may be part of a depiction of the Flight intoEgypt, while the whole depiction of the Nativity is preserved bellow.The combination of the Nativity and the Flight intoEgypt is not found in sculptural works of the fourth andfifth century. In extant works of the fourth century,mostly sarcophagus lids, as well as in fifth-century ivories, the Nativity is accompanied by scenes from the Oldand New Testament, most particularly by the Adorationof the Magi.The depiction of the Nativity on the Byzantine Museumplaque constitutes the oldest known example in the east.This simple, uncluttered scene represents the ChristChild in swaddling clothes in a raised trapezoidal cribwith the two animals bending over Him. The Virgin isnot shown. Two dissimilar trees flank the scene. On theleft is a conifer, also found in plaques of the third century dedicated to the worship of Cybele and on sarcophagi of the same period where it symbolises eternal lifeafter death. There are very few examples of conifers inChristian works, and these probably have the samesymbolical significance. The tree to the right, with largedrilled leaves and bearing an unidentifiable fruit, resembles (along with the conifer) a sarcophagus reliefwith a pastoral scene from the late third or early fourthcentury. The leaves may indicate that a vine is shownhere, thus symbolising the human nature of Christ; itmay likewise depict a fig-tree.The carver of plaque T. 95 followed ancient models. Thearticulation of the scenes through the creation of slightly uneven surfaces is encountered in non-Christiansculptures such as the plaque from the end of the secondcentury B.C. with the Apotheosis of Homer, now in theBritish Museum. Furthermore, while the abstract natureof the rendition of the animals with their protrudingheads and their bodies in low relief is reminiscent of themanner in which the horses of the Dioscuri are shown inthe depiction of Zeus Dolichenus from the third centuryA.D. Also, the raised trapezoidal crib can be comparedto the tables in depictions of symposia and funeraryfeasts. The crib, which in certain instances is symbolic ofan altar, has been identified with the "altar of theLord", as the Christian altar-table came to be known.The simplicity of the depiction, a common feature offourth century depictions of the Nativity, the air of Antiquity apparent in the articulation of the scenes, therendition of the piecemeal elements, the absence of decorative borders (characteristic of representationalplaques from chiefly the fifth century), as well as thedrapery of Joseph's chiton in the upper scene, lead to adating of the plaque to c. 400.