Emperor Theodosius before St. Ambrose

Josef Tadeáš Rotter (1701–1763) | mid-18th century | oil on canvas, 80,3 × 102, 8 cm

The scene depicting the repentance of Emperor Augustine before St. Ambrose shows the consequences of the act when Theodosius preached the execution and slaughter of several thousand inhabitants of Thessaloniki who resisted in 390. The Bishop of Milan, Ambrose, then denied the emperor entry to the temple and refused to celebrate Mass. Tormented by the circumstances and his own conscience, Theodosius repented and submitted to the authority of the Church. To some extent, the scene can also be seen as an example of the supremacy of ecclesiastical power over secular power. The repentant emperor bows before the spiritual authority of St. Ambrose, who is dressed in Baroque fashion, which added to the topicality of the subject. The light emanating from the sanctuary subdues the effect of the message and at the same time, together with the muted colours and the cartoonishness of the shapes, adds drama to the painting.