The Painter Theophanes of Crete and its influence on painters of the sixteenth and seventeenth century
Marcel Ghe. Muntean, The Painter Theophanes of Crete and its influence on painters of the sixteenth and seventeenth century
Theophan the Cretan painter (Stirlitzas Theophanis also known as Bathas – 1559) is considered one of the most important representatives of the Cretan School of painting, making his apprenticeship in the workshop of the famous painter Andreas Ritzos. Among the outstanding works that defined his impressive carrier we mention: Anapafsas Nicholas, Monastery of Meteora, Great Lavra and the refectory of the same building found at the Holy Mountain Athos, the Church of the Assumption found in Kalambaka, the chapel of Saint John the Baptist at the Stavronikita Monastery. However, we can mention some portable icons and the iconostasis at the Stavronikita Monastery, mentioned in a previous paragraph. The technique used by Theophanes was continued for several painters who considered him a model of great value; when it comes to power of expression, style and technique, he was considered just as important as Panselinos, a model of Macedonian school.
Angelos Akotandos (1450) is, without any doubt, the most important representative of the Cretan School of Byzantine painting and is also one of the first ones to leave a mark. The few icons signed by the artist Angelos had only first names and references to him; this and the fact that he passes away in 1457 are known from his will that was written in 1436. Some of the icons drawn by him are: Christ Pantocrator on his marble throne, Christ the Vine, St. John the Baptist with his genuine parchment, St. Phanurios, etc. Andreas Ritzos (1421-1492) is mentioned in the documents as belonging to the 15th century. Just like Angelos, Ritzos is also considered a creator of some new iconographic types such as: The Mother of Jesus and the Mother of God on the throne, as shown in the icon of St. John the Evangelist at the Monastery of Patmos.
Nikolae Ritzos (1446-1503) continues the tradition of his father Andreas Ritzos. The most familiar themes include Deisis representations at a smaller scale representing the life of Jesus Christ. However, Nicolaos Tzafuris (who died before 1501) was known as a great admirer of contemporary italian paintings. The influences of the Renaissance can be seen in many other works: Pietá (found at the museum of Vienna), Jesus with his crown of thorns and Madre della Consolazione. Andreas Pavias (died before 1504) has similar interests as his fellow collegues, focusing on both Byzantine tradition from the paleologs and the influences of the the so-called real gothic, which has its origin in Western art. Among his works we would like to mention the beautiful Crucifixion from Athens National Art Gallery. Theophan’s influence was exerted with poignancy, both painters of the frescoes and icons. Michail Damaskinos is one of the followers of the art of Theophanes. He decorated the St. George Church in Venice.
Georgios Klontzas (1540-1559) is one of the most famous iconographers (artists) in the second half of the sixteenth century, being a contemporary of Damaskinos. The main feature of his art is a very special attention to details. Some examples of his works: “They celebrate You” and “Judgement Day”. Emmanuil Tzanes (1610-1690). Of all the painters coming from Creta, Tzanes will be the one that’s heavily influenced by italian artists. Theodoros Poulakis (1622-1690-2) follows in the footsteps of Tzanes, also creating a new formula based on his imagination and courage. His greatest works were strongly influenced by the church hymns; we would like to mention: “In the grave bodily, but in Hades with Thy soul as God; in Paradise with the thief, and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit wast Thou Who fillest all things, O Christ the Inexpressible”.
When it comes to the monumental painting (fresco), the Cretan painters are influenced by the art of icons. The style is slightly different from the Macedonian style that dominated the Balkans and was known for its use of bright colors and fine nuances. In the same context, we would like to pay attention to the positioning and the movement, the elements of perspective and the open space scenes. In the same way, a simplification of space can be felt in the Macedonian art, figurative elements arrive one after the other, without dividing.
Keywords: Theophanes of Crete, the Cretan School of painting, Andreas Ritzos, Angelos Akotandos, Nikolaos Ritzos, Georgios Klontzas, Emmanuil Tzanes, the art of icons
MARCEL GHE. MUNTEAN