Theophanes the Greek
Theophanes the Greek (sometimes "Feofan Grek" from the Russian: Феофан Грек, Greek: Θεοφάνης; c. 1340 – c. 1410) was a Byzantine Greek artist and one of the greatest icon painters of Muscovite Russia, and was noted as the teacher and mentor of the great Andrei Rublev.
Life and work
Theophanes was born in the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople. In 1370 he moved to Novgorod, and in 1395 to Moscow. His style is considered unsurpassed in expression achieved by almost mono-colored painting. Some of his contemporaries observed that he appeared to be "painting with a broom", in reference to the bold, broad execution in some of his finest frescos (see St. Makarios of Egypt), which are unique in the larger Byzantine tradition. Theophanes was described by the Muscovites as "learned in philosophy", a reflection on his broad education and erudition. A hint of this might be gathered from his panel icon of the Transfiguration of Jesus, where the arresting geometry and brilliance of the figure of Christ is balanced against the ordered disarray of the earthbound Apostles, strewn about doll-like in the uncreated Light of Mount Tabor. The balance of mathematical harmony in line and shape, wed to a master's use of an earthtone palette and precious gold leaf, evokes a spirituality that is immensely powerful, and speaks to the genius of this relatively unknown painter.
Theophanes decorated in fresco the walls and ceilings of many churches including:
- the Church of the Transfiguration on Ilin Street in Novgorod (1378)
- the church of Nativity of Mary (1395) of the Moscow Kremlin together with Semen Chernij)
- Archangel Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin (1399)
- the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Moscow Kremlin, in company with Andrei Rublev and Prokhor of Gorodets (1405).
He created panel icons as well. However, based on historical evidence, works attributed to Theophanes have lately become a topic of intense academic debate. Until recently, he was traditionally considered the author of famous panel icons, notably:
- Our Lady of the Don (1380?)
- Dormition of the Virgin Mary (1392)
- The Virgin Mary and John the Baptist from the iconostasis of the Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Moscow Kremlin (1405?)
- The Transfiguration (1408)
- Panel icons
- these attributions are now controversial
Our Lady of the Don (Donskaya)
Dormition of the Theotokos (Uspenie Bogoroditsy)
John the Baptist pair with the Virgin
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