Page 329 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
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 less, the case of the founder of the Serbian medieval dy- nasty, Stefan Nemanja (c. 1167–96), deserves mention. His attempted bid for independence from Byzantium failed despite his conspiring with Venice and Hungary. Defeat- ed by the emperor Manuel i Comnenus (1143–80), Ne- manja was taken to Constantinople to enhance the im- perial triumph. Poets eulogized and artists depicted Man- uel’s victory over Nemanja. Two peristyles of the impe- rial palace at Blachernae were decorated with episodes representing Manuel’s war with the “barbarians” (Nema- nja and the Serbs), and scenes from the same war were depicted in a church dedicated to the Mother of God.17 Since all of these images are lost, no specific information can be gained beyond the fact that a series of episodes, presumably separate compositions, formed these histori- cal cycles illustrating Manuel’s victories. These may have been similar in manner to the way religious narratives were told on the walls of the churches.
There are preserved scenes in Serbian medieval reli- gious foundations, which have certain traits of historical illustrations. among them, one can mention those in the exonarthex of the Mother of God’s church at Studenica or those at Sopoćani, but these seem to depict moments of religious character in the life of an historical person more than representing historical events of a truly secular na-
17 Grabar, L’empereur, p. 40, note 5, and 41, note 2.
The Battle of Kosovo (1389) and Battle Themes in Serbian art
ture.18 Furthermore, neither Serbian medieval literary sources nor epic poems appear to suggest the existence of historical scenes (battles included) on the walls of Ser- bian royal residences. all of this leads to one conclusion: the creation of a monumental historical composition de- picting the Battle of Kosovo was a cultural and artistic im- probability. There is, however, another small pool of rep- resentations which may help us imagine certain details and episodes from the Battle of Kosovo. This visual “documen- tation” is to be found in illuminated manuscripts.
Before examining images from the manuscripts, one must summarize briefly the major episodes of the Battle of Kosovo as reconstructed by various scholars. Until such a time when the Ottoman archives yield late fourteenth or fifteenth century written sources describing this event, historians are compelled to use literary sources which con- siderably postdate the battle. For example, Petar Tomac relies extensively on Turkish sources from the sixteenth century in his study of the Battle of Kosovo.19 Thus, the actual location of Murad’s turbe allows Tomac to describe the overall battle arrangement of the opposing forces with a certain amount of specificity. However, other aspects of the battle, as described in the Turkish sources and used by P. Tomac, seem to be rather generalized. Therefore, this essay will focus on the following features from these de- scriptions while comparing them to the images in the man- uscripts: (1) the meeting and supper of the leaders of the Serbian forces; (2) the organization of the Ottoman cen- ter with tents and camels as beasts of burden; (3) the use of archers; (4) the equestrian charge and the main battle; and (5) the many fallen bodies on a very bloody field, to paraphrase written sources.20
it is beyond the scope of this study and the expertise of this writer to question either the validity of these late Ottoman sources or the methodology of the historians using them for the reconstruction of the Battle of Koso- vo. Rather, this study will focus on another kind of “evi- dence” and explore the observations and conclusions which may be drawn from it. This “evidence” comes from the visual arts—in this case, miniature painting. The works to be consulted here belong to different genres from il- lustrated chronicles to Homilies and Psalters. The cho- sen examples range in date from the ninth to the fifteenth century and originate in locations as far-flung as Sicily and Russia, and as close to the Kosovo field as Serbia and Bulgaria. Certain scenes in three manuscripts in particu- lar will be analyzed here at some length, while others will be used to support and advance the hypothesis that one
18 Gordana Babić, “Painting,” in Studenica Monastery (Belgrade: jugoslovenska Revija, 1986), pp. 82–86, and figs. 72 and 73; Vojislav j. Djurić, Sopoćani (Belgrade: S.K.Z. and Prosveta, 1963), p. 78, and drawing on page 133.
19 Peter Tomac, Kosovska Bitka (Belgrade, 1968), pp. 34–37, 151– 68, 193–223.
20 P. Tomac, Kosovska Bitka, pp. 209–10.

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