See the Book
(In the imprinted anthivolon the representation is in reverse in relation to the work that was the model.)
Gouache: deep blue, red, yellow, grown, olive brown
Instructions on colours
115 x 76cm.
The drawing, lined on the back with fine paper, comprises eight sheets joined together. It is in quite good condition with damage in places, tears, folds, holes and loss of parts of the paper.
St Nicholas, in half-body and strictly frontal pose, wears luxurious prelatic vestments, floral-patterned phelonion and omophorion, cross- inscribed epigonation and elaborate encolpium with a miniature representation of God the Father. He blesses with the right hand raised on the chest and with the left holds a gospel book illuminated with miniatures of the Four Evangelists and of Christ, in baroque frames. On either side of the saint’s head, within clouds, are the figures of Christ and the Virgin, in small scale, offering the gospel and the omophorion respectively, explicit remembrance of the Miracle in Nicaea. Visible above Christ and the Virgin are the abbreviations: ΙΣ ΧΣ (Jesus Christ) and [ΜΡ] ΘY (Mother of God). Also preserved in fragmentary state is a majuscule inscription of the saint’s name: O ΑΓΙΟΣ / ΝΙΚΟΛ[ΑΟΣ]. The subject and as the large dimensions of the drawing refer to despotic icons of an iconostasis. The representation is enlivened by the use of gouache in warm, vibrant tones. Of interest are the abbreviated notes on colours and the instructions on their choice.
The representation follows a familiar and established iconographic type of the period, which draws its origin from Byzantine depictions of the saint, was crystallized in fifteenth-century Cretan painting, enjoyed wide dissemination during the Post-Byzantine period and lived on into the nineteenth century.
The present drawing deviates from the norm in that Nicholas holds the gospel book from below, an element not unknown in Byzantine depictions of the saint, usually in full body, which reappears in fifteenth-century works and is encountered until Post-Byzantine times_equally in full-body or dimidiate representations of the saint. Although the unknown creator of the drawing follows established iconographic models, he distances himself appreciably from traditional artistic modes. He shows a clear orientation towards the naturalistic art of the West, a phenomenon detected in corresponding representations of hierarchs mainly during the nineteenth century, such as two other drawings by painters from Galatista in the Chalkidiki, with depictions of Sts Nicholas and Spyridon, and in icons of St Nicholas in the Koutloumousi monastery (1799), of St Charalambos in the church of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple at Genisea, Xanthi (1836) and of St Nicholas in the church dedicated to him at Kipoi, Zagori (1860). A despotic icon identical to the drawing discussed here has been identified in the church of St George at Negades. The domination of the Western-style naturalistic rendering of the saint in that icon refers to the Neo-Russian painting trends which, centred on Mount Athos, run through the artistic output of northern Greece and the Balkans in the second half of the nineteenth and into the early decades of the twentieth century. The facial features are modelled with sensitivity and smooth interplay of light and shade, which recall portraits of the period. Motifs similar to those on the saint’s phelonion also occur on contemporary prelatic vestments and in decorative plant motifs in murals executed by painters from Chioniades in mansions in northern Greece and in wood-carving. The above advocate the dating of the icon and the anthivolon to the late nineteenth century, without ruling out the possibility of its attribution to a workshop in Chioniades.
Βασιλάκη 1994, 230 with earlier bibliography and related examples.
Cf. Boura—Tsigakou 1984, 22, 24, figs 1-13.
For related examples, see Boura-Tsigakou 1984, 24. Vassilaki 2000a, 46. Εκ Χιονιάδων 2004, 18 (N. Bonovas). Κόσμος του Βυζαντινού Μουσείου 2004, 410.
See indicatively Αντουράκης 1988, figs 1-11, 24, 28, 30, 32, 35-37a, 38, 39b.
Δρανδάκη 2002, 88, no. 17.
Εικόνες Κρητικής Τέχνης 1993, no. 164 (Μ. Bordoudakis), nο. 168 (Μ. Borboudakis). Δρανδάκη 2002, no. 17. Acheimastou-Potamianou 1998a, νο.45. Θησαυροί του Αγίου Όρους 1997, no. 2.104 (L. Toska)
N. Chatzidakis 1998, no. 65.
Αντουράκης 1988, fig. 42. Eικόνες Κύπρου 1976, nο. 1.
Chatzidakis 1985, no. 8, pl. 10. Ζίας 1960, 277-200, pl. 104a-b. Χατζηδάκης-1969α, 303-307, pl 115b. Βοκοτόπουλος 1990, no. 7
N. Chatzidakis 1998, no. 30. Εικόνες Κρητικής Τέχνης 1993, nο. 185 (Th. A. Archontopoulos).
Γαλατσιάνοι 2005, 26, fig. 18. Κειµήλια Πρωτάτου 2006, nο. 92 (P. Benetatou).
Θησαυροί του Αγίου Όρους 1997, no. 2.130 (L. Toska). Παπάγγελος 1998. 255, n. 16.
Τσιγάρας 2004, 93, fig. 56.
Unpublished. Similar representations of hierarchs are often found also in the southern Balkans, see Matakieva-Lilkova 1994, no. 83. Matakieva- Lilkova 2001, no. 32.
Τσιγαρίδας 2002, 331. Ζάρρα 1998, 50-51. Μηλιατζίδου-Ιωάννου 1998, 169.
See respectively ‘Αμφια 1999, no. 27, fig. 31. Μακρής 1981, 73, fig, 41 Σκούρτης 2004. figs 83, 84.