Byzantine Heads (pair) (1897)

Mucha regarded Byzantine civilization as the spiritual home of Slavic culture. In his style he incorporated a variety of decorative motifs inspired by Byzantine art, such as mosaic works, icons, sumptuous costumes and accessories.

This pair of decorative panels was so popular that it was reproduced in a number of different formats, including panels with variations in the frame decoration and decorative tin plates.

Both women are seen in profile against an ornate background of vegetal arabesques. They wear highly ornate jewellery in their hair, which is evocative of Byzantine design as suggested in the title. In both panels, strands of hair fall beyond the circular frames, bridging the gap between the women and the viewer and lending a sense of depth to the otherwise flattened compositions. The exquisite pattern surrounding the circular frames simulates lacework, another decorative element familiar in Moravian craftwork.