What is Theophanes the Greek

First works in Ancient Russia

Theophanes the Greek hails from Constantinople. It came to light in 1340. This Byzantine painter had a strong influence on the formation and subsequent development of Russian icon painting.

In the 70s, having already painted many temples in his homeland and in Genoa, he came to Novgorod. By then, Greek was an already formed master with a distinctive view of art. He was offered to decorate the Novgorod Church of the Transfiguration on Ilyina Street with frescoes.

Soon an image of Christ appeared in the dome of the temple. His image was unusual: a dark face, a serious gaze, a huge blessing hand. Then the same angels, saints, appeared on the walls and columns. All these characters of the Greek mural, almost monochrome, mostly red-brown, had to each instill fear and humility, remind of the inevitability of the Terrible Judgment.

Around the eyes, on the cheeks, neck and chest, the master arranged short white strokes – gaps. So he depicted the spiritual light. It’s like a candle burns inside each figure, and this light transforms it, inanimates it. The Greek thus showed that in every man the divine fire lives, and therefore the power of the spirit is inexhaustible.

Such painting corresponded to the character of Novgorod temples — powerful, discreet. And to the spirit of Novgorodians. It is no coincidence that the works of the Byzantine master so organically fit into the so-called Novgorod school of painting.

Fashion artist

In the 90s Greek moved to Moscow, where he quickly became a fashion master. He was often invited to paint not only temples but also private houses. He was also involved in the design of books.

The Greek along with other painters decorated several cathedrals. To the present day, a little has come from them. So, several figures from the iconostasis of the Annunciation Cathedral survived.

He was decorated with the young painter monk Andrei Rublev in 1405. They came up with an iconostasis — the partition that separated the altar, turned into a whole wall with icons in several rows. The Greek passed on much of his experience to his pupil and in general greatly influenced his creativity. Now Rubleva is considered the best Old Russian artist.

Theophanes the Greek did not put signatures on his works, but the manner of his writing was so individual and so different from others that today experts can determine authorship according to the peculiarities of painting. She’s expressive and tense. So, they believe that the Byzantine wrote icons “Assumption of Our Lady”, “Transfiguration”, “Mother of God Don”. The rest of his works have not survived.

Theophanes the Greek died in 1410. He never saw the masterpieces of his pupil Andrei Rublev, but gave a powerful impetus to the development of Old Russian painting.

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