Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Post-Byzantine art and iconography.

A 17th century icon that reperesents Jesus Christ  with an emperor's outfit.

Twelve centuries ago at the last of the great ecumenical councils of christendom, the assembled fathers pronounced that holy icons depicting Christ and His angles and saints ,should be set up in the holy churches of god,on sacred vessels on vestments on walls on panels in houses etc. The honour that is paid to the image passes to the one that it represents.Religious painting has been eagerly practised since the time of the Roman emperor Constantine.but there had always been an element especially in the eastern provinces which remained faithful to the Jewish ban on graven images. This division would later cause the Great civil wars in the Byzantine empire known as iconoclasm.In this conflict the defenders of the icons prevailed and the defeated would almost all be converted to Islam after the Arab conquests of the Byzantine East.

After the 9th century there was an increased production of portable icons especially by the poor people.The imperial workshops continued to produce large icons made of gold, silver, mosaic and jade.After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 the portable icons acquired new importance.Most of the big churches were converted into mosques and the christians had to built smaller churches.

From 1204 AD till the  mid 17th century that the Venetians had possessions that formerly belonged to the Byzantines .A new artistic school flourished in Venetian lands and particularly in Crete called Cretan school or post Byzantine art.The success of this school was that it used both eastern and western elements in iconography.The most famous artist of this school was a Cretan called Dominikos Theotokopoulos(EL Greco).Icons exportation became a major business in Crete as there was a considerable demand for icons in the west.

In this post though, i will focus on the icon production in the Ottoman occupied lands.
The Byzantine empire may had fallen in 1453 but the production of Byzantine art  didn't cease.In the Ottoman territories artistic production diminished and if there was any it was constrained in small scale iconography with old eastern and  Byzantine elements.As i foretold at this period portable icons came into prominence.

The icons were not produced any more by artists but by monks who strictly followed the rules of the old  Byzantine painting traditions.However there  were some talented artists who were adding some elements of individualism in their icons they were just exceptions cause the rules never changed and iconography remained the same .

The major places of artistic production was the Holy mountain which represented the traditional iconography and Crete in which the Cretan school flourished. Later after the fall of Crete to the Ottomans the artists either fled to Venice or to the Heptanese in Western Greece which were still under Venetian control.

Below you can see some examples of the post Byzantine art in Ottoman Greece from the period 1453-1821

Saint Mercurius and Catherine(17th cen. )

Saint Nicolas(17th cen.)

Jesus descends to hell(18th century)

Scene from a big wall painting of the Apocalypse

Scene from a big wall painting of the Apocalypse
details from a big wall painting of the Apocalypse

The father the son and the Holy spirit in the form of a pidgeon

Saint  George on the left killing the snake and and Mercurius killing the Byzantine emperor Julian 

John Prodromme

Saint George. The Italian elements are obvious

Saint George on a throne

sources:Μετά το Βυζάντιο(After Byzantium) author: Βασίλης Φωτόπουλος(Vasilis Photopoulos)

1 comment:

Brainstorm said...

Nice post. Interesting icons!

put your country on top

free counters