Why was Theodora chosen over other Byzantine women like Irene or Anna Comnena?
Judy Chicago and her research team chose the "Guests of Honor" out of all the women they researched based on their contributions to society as a whole, how they improved conditions for women, and how well they served as a symbol for other women or a role model for the future.
Given all of that, the main trait that stands out is that Theodora did more directly improve treatment of women, especially working women, in the Byzantine Empire.
Theodora's plate is beautiful!
I love the subtle 3-dimensionality of her mosaic. Do you know about Theodora?
I only know she was married to Justinian, but I don't want to define her by her marital status.
How on-message of you! However the fact that she was married to Justinian is actually significant to her presence at The Dinner Party.
She was an actress when they met and Justinian had to change the laws of Byzantium to allow for a marriage between them. During her time as empress, Theodora also championed women's issues and got involved in debates on the nature of Christianity.
Who was Theodora?
Theodora was a Byzantine empress, famous for rising from the lowest class in Byzantine society to the role of empress when she married Justinian I in 525.
The plate's mosaic motif references a famous mosaic of Theodora at the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. The gold, green, and purple colors reference historical mosaics of Theodora and Justinian I that the church is known for.
Theodora is also known for implementing laws that protected women and their rights. For this reason, Judy Chicago felt she should be included in The Dinner Party.
Why is Theodora’s place setting so mosaic-like?
Mosaics were an extremely popular method of decoration in the Roman Empire and Theodora was a prominent Empress of the Roman Empire. In fact, the most famous depiction of her is a mosaic in a church in Ravenna that she commissioned with her husband, the Emperor Justinian. This plate references that mosaic.
Is this actual mosaic or ceramic imitating mosaic?
It is indeed ceramic textured to imitate mosaic. The colors and pattern are drawn from a mosaic portrait of Theodora in a cathedral in Ravenna, Italy.
Could you give me more information about Theodora, the reasoning behind her attending the Dinner Party, and her place setting? Thanks.
Theodora was an empress of the Byzantine Empire, wife to emperor Justinian I. She is credited as being one of the most powerful women in Byzantine history. She used her intelligence and political acumen to influence and promote legislation that expanded divorce rights for women, prohibited trafficking and forced prostitution for young girls, and established the death penalty for rape.
The color and style of her plate recalls the most recognized image of her, the mosaic from the apse in the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy, built by Theodora and Justinian in the 6th century. The extended wings of the abstract butterfly form represent Theodora's ability to expand her role in Byzantium and create freedoms for women. The symmetry of the images echoes a basilica plan, with a colonnade of Roman arches in the upper parts of the wings.
For the runner, the mosaic-like halo surrounding the plate references the halo Ravenna has in the Ravenna mosaic and associated Theodora with both imperial reign and religious work.
Who was Theodora?
Theodora was Empress of the Byzantine Empire--also known as the Eastern Roman Empire. She was wife to Emperor Justinian I, who had to change laws in order to marry her, a common woman. As Empress, Theodora, championed women's rights. The most famous depiction of her is a mosaic in a church in Ravenna, Italy, which was the inspiration for her mosaic plate.