Project Description


See the Book

AINOI (Psalm 148:1-14)

Drawing. Pencil, Chinese ink.
Greek and Slavonic inscriptions
61 x 59.5 cm.
Late 18th-early 19th century
Handmade paper

The drawing, in good condition, comprises three sheets of handmade paper, of different size, carefully sewn together, and has been glued later to canson and card.

The composition, which is developed vertically, is a visual render- ing of the praise of God by all his creations (Psalm 148:1-14).1 A circular mandorla with the inscription o Χριστός εν θρόν[ω](Christ on the throne) denotes the Theophany, which representation is unfinished in the drawing as Christ is not depicted. The mandorla encloses the symbols of the Evangelists and the nine angelic hosts, in medallions. The Lord is hymned by the heavens (successive arcs), the heavenly bodies (sun and moon), ‘the waters above the heavens’ and, on either side of the mandorla, angels headed by the Virgin and St John the Baptist. After them, in vertical symmetrical arrangement, come the groups of Apostles and of Hierarchs, the blessed (hosioi) and the young, the kings and ‘all nations of the earth’ opposite the elders. In the middle of the composition, below the Theophany, are illustrated the natural phenomena (hail, snow, ice), the ‘stormy wind’, personified as angel heads with wings (putti), and fire. Last, mountains with fruit trees, animals and birds, a water source rendering the abyss and dragons complete the doxology of the plant and the animal kingdom to the Creator.

The Ainoi (Psalms 148-150), as a literary subject with complex doxological and eschatological content inspired by the Psalms of David, decorated mainly Psalters during the Byzantine Age.2 It appears in monumental art in the fourteenth century,3 while from the sixteenth it is enriched with new elements and established in the iconographic programme of the narthex, enjoying wide diffusion in mainland Greece, as well as the Balkans generally and Russia, until the nineteenth century.4 The present drawing represents only Psalm 148:1-4. The overall iconography refers to analogous Russian icons, the earliest of which is the one in Novgorod (second half of 15th century),5 as well as to the wall-painting in the Athonite Chilandari monastery (refectory, 1621/22).6 The illustrating of natural phenomena and the personification of the winds are absent from the Russian examples but are present in Chilandari and occur, as a rule, in Greek monuments until the nineteenth century.7 The unknown creator of the drawing follows with austerity and an eclectic disposition earlier models that are encountered mainly in Russian works and Athonite wall-paintings (15th-17th century). Moreover, the double Greek and Slavonic inscriptions point to an itinerant painter familiar with the domain and the art of the Orthodox populations of Greece, the Balkans and Russia. Despite the archaic character of the composition, the absence of imaginary beings, as also in the representation in the Xeropotamos monastery,8 as well as the simplistic depiction of the sun, which re- calls the corresponding one in the church of the Sts Anargyroi at Metaxochori, Agia (18th century),9 lead to a later date.

M. Nanou

1 Ἑρμηνεία 1909. 128.
2 For the subject, see Παρχαρίδου 2000, 28ff, Μεράντζας 2005, 11ff.
3 Παρχαρίδου 2000, 44ff. Μεράντζας 2005, 17ff
4 Τούρτα 1991, 133, n. 1005. Tourta 2003, 235-244. Κωνστάντιος 2001, 104- 105. 124, 146. Kanari 2003, 119-124. Παρχαρίδου 2000, 232ff.
5 Παρχαρίδου 2000, 55-56, fig.27b.
6 Παρχαρίδου 2000, 233, n. 1262. Ταβλάκης 1995, pl. 151.
7 See n. 4.
8 Τσιγάρας 2003, 268-269, fig. 288.
9 Unpublished (I am grateful to M. Parcharidou for kindly providing relevant photographs).

Ainoi (Psalm 148.1-14).

Drawing, pencil, chinese ink, greek and slavonic inscriptions, handmade paper.

Late 18th – early 19th c.

61 x 59.5 cm

(donation no. 77)

A. Katselaki-M. Nanou,  Anthivola. Τhe Holy Cartoons from Chionades, The Makris-Margaritis Collection, publication of the Museum of Greek Folk Art, Athens 2009, cat. no. 23, page 409.