Overall: 10 11/16 x 1 9/16 in., 49.3oz. (27.2 x 4 cm, 1397g) foot: 4 5/8 x 9/16 in. (11.8 x 1.4 cm)
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
In 628–29 the Byzantine emperor Herakleios (r. 610–41) successfully ended a long, costly war with Persia and regained Jerusalem, Egypt, and other Byzantine territory. Silver stamps dating to 613–29/30 on the reverse of these masterpieces place their manufacture in Herakleios’s reign. The biblical figures on the plates wear the costume of the early Byzantine court, suggesting to the viewer that, like Saul and David, the Byzantine emperor was a ruler chosen by God. Elaborate dishes used for display at banquets were common in the late Roman and early Byzantine world; generally decorated with classical themes, these objects conveyed wealth, social status, and learning. This set of silver plates may be the earliest surviving example of the use of biblical scenes for such displays. Their intended arrangement may have closely followed the biblical order of the events, and their display may have conformed to the shape of a Christogram, or monogram for the name of Christ.
David, brought before Saul, says he is willing to battle Goliath (1 Samuel 17:32–34). Saul is dressed as member of the Byzantine court. His chlamys, or cloak, worn over a long-sleeved tunic, is fastened with a cruciform fibula, or brooch, the sign of a high-ranking state official. The chlamys is adorned with a tablion, a rectangular embroidered panel indicating the wearer’s rank. The man at the far left wears the Persian costume fashionable at court during the early Byzantine period: short tunic with long sleeves, girdle, long trousers, and boots. Here again the arcade suggests a palatial setting.
Cyprus Treasure, found at Karavas, Cyprus, 1902; [ C. & E. Canessa, Paris (sold 1906)]; J. Pierpont Morgan (American), London and New York (1906–1913); Estate of J. Pierpont Morgan(1913–1917)
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. "The Pierpont Morgan Treasures. Loan exhibition in honor of the Junius Spencer Morgan Memorial," November 10, 1960–December 18, 1960.
Forth Worth, TX. Kimbell Art Museum. "Picturing the Bible: The Earliest Christian Art," November 18, 2007–March 30, 2008.
Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Chypre médiévale: entre Byzance, l'Orient et l'Occident," October 24, 2012–January 28, 2013.
Breck, Joseph, and Meyric R. Rogers. The Pierpont Morgan Wing: A Handbook. 1st ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1925. pp. 36-39, fig. 17.
Breck, Joseph, and Meyric R. Rogers. The Pierpont Morgan Wing: A Handbook. 2nd ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1929. pp. 36-39, fig. 17.
Weitzmann, Kurt. "Byzantine Art and Scholarship in America." American Journal of Archaeology, 2nd series, 51, no. 4 (1947). pp. 397, 404.
Rorimer, James J. "The Authenticity of the Chalice of Antioch." In Studies in Art and Literature for Belle da Costa Greene, edited by Dorothy Miner. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954. pp. 162–63, 164.
Rorimer, James J., and William Holmes Forsyth. "The Medieval Galleries." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 12, no. 6 (February 1954). p. 125.
Hoving, Thomas. "The Sources of the Ivories of the Ada School." PhD diss., Princeton University, 1960. pp. 148a, 157, fig. 72, 76.
Byzantine Art, a[n] European Art. Catalogue of the Ninth Exhibition of the Council of Europe. Athens: Zappeion Exhibition Hall, 1964. no. 494, p. 423.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 26, no. 5 (January 1968). no. 11, p. 201.
Hoving, Thomas. "Director's Choice." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 28, no. 5 (January 1970). pp. 24-25.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries. New York: Dutton Publishing, 1970. no. 113, p. 149.
Weitzmann, Kurt. "Prolegomena to a Study of the Cyprus Plates." Metropolitan Museum Journal 3 (1970). pp. 97-111, fig. 10.
Beeson, Nora B., ed. Guide to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972. no. 15, p. 212.
Wander, Steven H. "The Cyprus Plates: The Story of David and Goliath." Metropolitan Museum Journal 8 (1973). pp. 89-104, fig. 1, 10.
Alexander, Suzanne Spain. "Heraclius, Byzantine Imperial Ideology, and the David Plates." Speculum 52, no. 2 (April 1977). pp. 217–37.
Weitzmann, Kurt, ed. Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979. no. 425, pp. 475-483.
Snyder, James. Medieval Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, 4th-14th century. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1989. p. 105, fig. 125.
Pushkin Museum and State Hermitage Museum. Dekorativno-Prikladnoe Iskusstvo ot Pozdnei Antichnosti do Pozdnei Gotiki: Kratkii Katalog Vystavki. Moscow: Pushkin Museum, 1990. no. 11, p. 10.
State Hermitage Museum. Dekorativno-Prikladnoe Iskusstvo ot Pozdnei Antichnosti do Pozdnei Gotiki. St. Petersburg: State Hermitage Museum, 1990. no. 11, pp. 30-31.
Dresken-Weiland, Jutta. Reliefierte Tischplatten aus theodosianischer Zeit. Vatican City: Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archeologia, 1991. pp. 136–37.
Evans, Helen C., Melanie Holcomb, and Robert Hallman. "The Arts of Byzantium." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 58, no. 4 (Spring 2001). pp. 34-36.
Norris, Michael. A Masterwork of Byzantine Art : The David Plates ; The Story of David and Goliath. Closer look. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001. p. 10.
Tsamakda, Vasil. "König David als Typos des Byzantinischen Kaiser." In Byzanz – das Römerreich im Mittelalter: Volume 1, Welt der Ideen, Welt der Dinge, edited by Falko Daim, and Jörg Drauschke. Mainz: Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, 2010. pp. 30-31, fig. 5.
Durand, Jannic, and Dorota Giovannoni, ed. Chypre: entre Byzance et l'Occident, IVe–XVIe siècle. Paris: Musée du Louvre Éditions, 2012. no. 19b, pp. 67, 68.
Evans, Helen C., and Brandie Ratliff, ed. Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, 7th–9th century. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012.
Spier, Jeffrey. Byzantium and the West: Jewelry in the First Millenium. Paris, Chicago and New York: Les Enluminures, 2012. p. 30.
Wander, Steven H. The Joshua Roll. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2012. pp. 134–36, 140, fig. 29.
Humphrey, Lyle. "Collecting Christianity on the Nile: J. Pierpont Morgan and The Metropolitan Museum of Art." In Age of Transition: Byzantine Culture in the Islamic World, edited by Helen C. Evans. New York: Yale University Press, 2015. p. 3, fig. 2.
Stein, Wendy A. How to Read Medieval Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. p. 49, fig. 12.