Double page opening: Provinces Bringing Tribute (f.23v.) and Ruler Portrait of Otto III (f.24) Gospels of Otto III, c. 1000, each page 33.4 x 24.2 cm, ink, gold, paint, parchment (Munich, Bayerische Stattsbibliothek, Clm.4453)
This Byzantine like painting is of one of the major important figures from history in this period. A Emperor descended from both German and Byzantine Lines, Otto III was the Holy Roman Emperor from 996 to 1002, two years after the completion of this artwork he died. This particular work is from the Gospel Book of Otto III, an illuminated Gospel book that contains Vulgate versions of the four gospels. In the work of art we see Otto III Enthroned around his advisers, Religious on the left, military on the right. This seems to be an attempt to show both religious dominance and military dominance. Also from the artwork we see that Otto III is represented much taller than any of this advisers even while seated, this hierarchy of scale shows his importance. The style of the work appears to be in the same style of the Byzantine works of art, drawing upon their popular heritage, of being flat and adorned with many colors.
The Ottonian (918-1024) system of royal administration in Germany relied upon dynastic connections between the kings and the dukes, bishops, and counts. Otto and his successors attempted to keep the duchies of Germany and episcopacies in the hands of members of their family. Although German kingship remained technically “elective,” the Ottonian kings and the Salians who succeeded them (see entry for the year 1024) ensured the succession of their sons by having them ‘elected’ and crowned co-rulers with them. The result was a de facto hereditary monarchy. The Ottonians’ control over northern Italy depended upon their physical presence, and Emperor Otto III (r. 983-1002), the son of a Byzantine princess, consciously imitated Roman imperial and Byzantine court customs and made Rome the center of his imperial administration. The Ottonians and their successors the Salians promoted a theocratic ideology of kingship modeled on Byzantium.