Michael Damaskenos or Michail Damaskenos (Greek: Μιχαήλ Δαμασκηνός, 1530/35-1592/93) was a leading post-Byzantine Cretan painter. He is a major representative of the Cretan School of painting that flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries, whilst Crete was under Venetian rule. He was a near-contemporary of the most famous Cretan painter of any period, El Greco, but though Damaskinos also went to Italy, he remained much closer to his Greek roots stylistically.
Life and work
There is little information regarding the life of Damaskinos. He was born in Candia (today's Herakleion), the son of Tzortzis Damaskinos. He had a daughter named Antonia who married the painter Yannas Mantoufos. According to tradition, Damaskinos spent some time living and working in Vrontisi Monastery, where six of his icons were kept until 1800. Damaskinos lived in Venice for several years, where he learnt miniature painting and travelled extensively throughout Italy. He was a member of the Greek Brotherhood of Venice from 1577 to 1582, having been in Venice since 1574. He painted along with Emmanuel Tzanes the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of San Giorgio dei Greci in Venice. In 1584 he was back in Greece and worked mainly in Crete and the Ionian islands. His works are in traditional Byzantine style but with many influences from Venetian painting, mainly Renaissance artists such as Tintoretto and Paolo Veronese. He used a particular rose colour that characterised his paintings, his figures dimensions are defined by only few brushes while he was drawing wooden and never marble thrones as was typical in the Cretan School. That Damaskinos was highly regarded is shown by him being invited from Crete, despite all the many Greek artists already in Venice to paint the frescoes of San Giorgio dei Greci. Damaskinos was also the first artist to introduce paler flesh tones into post-Byzantine painting and it was one of the stylistic features of his work which proved highly influential from the second half of the sixteenth century and onwards. As was usual for distinguished painters, Damaskinos signed his works: ΧΕΙΡ ΜΙΧΑΗΛ ΤΟΥ ΔΑΜΑΣΚΗΝΟΥ or ΧΕΙΡ ΜΙΧΑΗΛ ΔΑΜΑΣΚΗΝΟΥ, ΔΑΜΑΣΚΗΝΟΥ ΜΙΧΑΗΛ ΧΕΙΡ or even ΠΟΙΗΜΑ ΜΙΧΑΗΛ ΤΟΥ ΔΑΜΑΣΚΗΝΟΥ (creation of Michael Damaskinos). Damaskinos having worked extensively in the Ionian islands has contributed to the fusion of the Cretan and the Heptanese School of painting.
- The work of Michael Damaskinos by S. Peponakis-in Greek
- Istituto Ellenico di Studi Byzantini and Postbyzantini di Venezia
- Collection of Agia Aikaterini of Sinai
- Byzantium: faith and power (1261-1557), an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on Damaskinos (see index)
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