Project Description


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Imprinted anthivolon. Instructions on colours in blue Chinese ink Charcoal and gouache: black, orangey red, brown, olive brown
(In the imprinted anthivolon or drawing the representation is in reverse in relation to the work that was the model.)
92 x57.5 cm.
19th century
Industrial paper

The drawing, lined on the back with paper and glued to card, comprises six sheets of paper of different size. There is considerable damage over the cntire surface and limited loss of paper in places.

The representation, of intense symbolic and narrative content, is of St Demetrios’ miraculous intervention to lift the siege of Thessalonica by the Bulgars in 1207.1 Distinguished by movement, vigour and dynamism, it conveys to the viewer a vivid sense of battle. Gouache is used to enhance the artistic quality of the work, while the numerous abbreviated notes on colours indicate that it is a working drawing.

The youthful saint gallops on his robust horse and holds with both hands the spear that he is poised to thrust into the heart of the Bulgar king, John Asan – known as Kalogiannis or Skylogiannis – who lies supine on the ground. He wears a tunic, a breastplate with curved finials, around which flutters a mantle, and a metal helmet with feathers. The buildings in the background denote the city of Thessalonica.

The iconography of the representation follows an established variation widespread in Cretan and Ionian Island icons of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,2 common for the two most popular equestrian saints, Demetrios and George. Principal characteristics of the type, encountered equally in portable icons,3 wall- paintings,4 objects in the minor arts,5 engravings6 and anthivola,7 are the furiously galloping horse, the contrapposto in the movements of rider and steed, the direction of the spear, which cuts across the representation as an oblique axis, and the saint’s billowing mantle. Particular characteristic of the present drawing is the combination of the Bulgar tsar with his horse, an element which from the seventeenth century is frequently encountered in portable8 and mural9 works in northwest Greece and the southern Balkans, and the saint’s distinctive helmet, as in comparable contemporary representations not only in the said regions but also in the art of the Ionian Islands.10 Both elements are depicted together in an analogous engraving in the Vatopedi monastery (late 18th century)11 and in two nineteenth- century Epirot icons, in the Eleousa monastery on the Island at loannina12 and in the church of St George at Negades.13 The drawing displays close iconographic and stylistic dependence on the Negades icon, further confirmed by the notes on coloration written on the drawing, which correspond exactly to the colours on the icon. The drawing presents a more summary negotiation of the subject and a simplification of the design than the Negades icon. The common orientation of the two works towards the Westernizing naturalistic conception of religious art reveals a painter attuned to the climate of Neo-Russian painting in the nineteenth century.

M. Nanou

1 Ξυγγόπουλος 1970, 43. Θεοτοκά 1955, 484-485.
2 Βοκοτόπουλος 1990, 133.
3 Άγιος Δημήτριος 2005, figs 63, 64. 72. 73. 80.
4 Άγιος Δημήτριος 2005, figs 115, 120, 137, 130, 143, 144.
5 Άγιος Δημήτριος 2005, figs 9, 10, 13.23.
6 Άγιος Δημήτριος 2005. fig. 90. Papastratos 1990, vol. I, nos 240-244, 248.
7 Εκ Χιονιάδων 2004, nos 104 (N. Bonovas), 105-106 (M. Nanou). Κειμήλια Πρωτάτου 2006, no. 89(I. Varalis).
8 Άγιος Δημήτριος 2005. figs 46. 64. Ταβλάκης 1998, 220-225, fig. 97. Ἐικόνες Αλβανίας 2006, nο. 43 (Ε. Drakopoulou). Drishti 2000, no. 17. Τσιγάρας 2004, 237, fig. 217.
9Παϊσίδου 2002, 224, pls 11b, 99b. Άγιος Δημήτριος 2005, tig. 139.
10 Χατζηδάχης-Δροακοπούλου 1997, 200, 202. fig. 125. Ημερολόγιο 2002. fig. 31. Κόσμος του Βυζαντινού Μουσείου, 201, fig. 31. Εικόνες Αλβανίας 2006, no. 53 (E. Drakopoulou). Icônes bulgares 1976, no. 152. Άγιος Δημήτριος 2005, fig. 171. Papastratos 1990, vol. I, no. 247.
11 Άγιος Δημήτριος 2005, fig. 87.
12 Μοναστήρια Νήσου Ιωαννίνων 1993, fig.602.
13 Unpublished

Saint Demetrios.

Imprinted anthivolon, instructions on colours in blue chinese ink, charcoal and gouache: black, orangey red, brown, olive brown, industrial paper. Early 19th c.

92 x 57.5 cm

(donation no. 82)

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. 16, page 402.