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 Ljubica D. Popović
as the above-cited text demonstrates, the Battle of Ko- sovo seemed to emerge in the collective consciousness of the Serbian people as perhaps the most tragic event in their long history. at the same time, through the martyr- dom of its participants, it signified a spiritual triumph. This perception contributed to the battle’s elevation from the earthly domain to the heavenly realm. Through his sacrifice and ultimate martyrdom, Prince Lazar, with his followers, chose the kingdom of heaven. Constantine the Philosopher implied this11 and one of the epic poems from the Kosovo Cycle, Propast Carstva Srpskog (The Down- fall of the Serbian Empire), explicitly stated it:
“Dear God, what shall i do and how shall i do it? Which kingdom shall i choose:
shall i choose the kingdom of heaven[?]
shall i choose the kingdom of earth?
if i select the kingdom,
the earthly kingdom,
the earthly kingdom is for a short while,
while the heavenly [kingdom] is forever and ever.”
The tsar chose the kingdom of heaven12
Considering the socio-political and religio-cultural cir-
cumstances in Serbia at that time, a question may be raised as to whether or not there ever existed in monumental painting an iconic representation of the Battle of Kosovo. Before an answer is offered and justified, it is important to underscore the fact that Serbian art in the closing de- cades of the fourteenth century still fell within the cultural and artistic tradition of the Byzantine empire. Therefore, Serbian art, like that of Byzantium, was primarily religious in character. Historical subjects were occasionally depict- ed in early Byzantine art on a monumental scale, but the contextual application of such subjects was rather limit- ed, being centered around the emperor and noble. This point can be substantiated through a few examples: his- toriated reliefs on the spiral column erected in Constan- tinople by the emperor arcadius (395–408)13 and the mo- saic images created under justinian i (527–65) which dec- orated the vestibule (the Chalke gate) of the imperial pal- ace in Constantinople. Both were of similar triumphant character. although lost now, the subjects of these repre- sentations are known through a description by Procopi- us.14 His description implies that the triumphal-ceremo-
12 L. Mirković, Stare srpske biografije, p. 60.
V. Djurić, Antologija, p. 266:
...“Mili bože, šta ću i kako ću? / Kome ću se privoleti carstvu: / da
ili ću carstvu nebeskome, da ili ću carstvu zemaljskome? / Ako ću se privoleti carstvu, / privolsti carstvu zemaljskome, / zemaljsko je za maleno carstvo, / a nebesko uvek i doveka.” / Car volede carstvu ne- beskome.
13 Stephen R. Zwim, “Drawing the column of arcadius,” in Age of Spirituality, Kurt Weitzmann (ed.), (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of art and Princeton University Press, 1979), pp. 79–81 and drawing on page 80.
14 Procopius, De aedificiis, i, x, 5 ff, as quoted in: Cyril Mango, The Art of the Byzantine Empire 312–1453, Sources and Documents in the
The Battle of Kosovo, lithograph, adam Stefanović, 1871
nial nature of these images held greater importance than their narrative explicitness. also well known, is the liter- ary description of the banquet hall in the imaginary pal- ace built by the Byzantine epic hero Digenis akritas on the euphrates River with its specific references to the de- piction of the battle between alexander and Darius.15
To enumerate other Byzantine historical representa- tion either mentioned in literary sources or distantly re- flected in the preserved monuments of the visual arts would go far beyond the scope of this study.16 Neverthe-
History of art Series, edited by H. W. janson (englewood Cliffs, N.j.: Prentice Hall inc., 1972), pp. 109–10.
15 Denison B. Hull (trans. and intr.), Digenis Akritas, The Two- Blood Border Lord, The Grottaferrata Version (athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1972), p. 99:
(85) He painted too achilles’ fabled wars,
agamemnon’s beauty, his fateful flight;
and wise Penelope; the suitors’ slaughter Odysseus’ wondrous
daring with the Cyclops;
Bellerophon slaying the dread Chimaera;
(90) alexander’s triumph, Darius’ defeat.
The reign of Candace, and her wisdom too.
Reaching the Brahmans, then the amazons,
and other feats of the wise alexander,
and many other marvelous kinds of valor:
For the Roman copy of the Battle between alexander and Darius,
see Donald Strong, Roman Art, prepared for press by j. M. C. Toyn- bee (Baltimore: MD Penguin Books, 1976), pp. 36–37, 48, and fig. 30. 16 The classical work on this subject is: andré Grabar, L’empereur dans l’art byzantin (London, 1971; Variorum Reprints of Strasburg,
1936 ed.), passim.

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