Onufri or Onouphrios of Neokastro (Greek: Ονούφριος) was an Orthodox icon painter and Archpriest of Elbasan, active in the 16th century in southern Albania and south-western Macedonia.[page needed] His works are characterized by post-Byzantine and Venetian influences. He also painted portraits, landscapes, and churches.
Little is known with certainty about Onufri's life and his existence only emerged in the early 20th century. Regarding his birthplace only an inscription in the Holy Apostles church, near Kastoria has survived. Onufri is believed to have been born in the early 16th century either in the region of Berat (in today's Albania) or near Kastoria or Grevena (in today's northern Greece). The epithet Argitis, which appears in a fresco near Kastoria may point to Argos as his place of birth, although as he used it only once it is regarded probable that it refers to a location in the area of Kastoria. He was educated in the Republic of Venice and was a member of the Greek Brotherhood of Venice.
In the climate of the time, the painting of Christian icons can be seen as an act to restore pre-Ottoman culture. He was active in Berat and possibly Venice until 1547. Then he worked in both Berat and Kastoria and in 1555, in Shelcan near Elbasan. He may have also been the painter of various murals in the church of St. Nicholas near Prilep (Republic of Macedonia). After 1554, he lived and painted in the village of Valsh. His works were signed with the title "Protopapas" (Greek: Πρωτόπαππας), demonstrating a senior position in the church hierarchy.
Onufri introduced greater realism and individuality into facial expressions, breaking with the strict conventions of the time. He was the first to introduce the colour pink into icon painting. The secret of this colour was not passed on and died with him. His work is noted for the intense use of colours and the use of natural dyes. According to Georgios Golobias the works of Onufri were significantly influenced by western art, as a result of his possible stay in Venice, being a member of the local Greek fraternity. On the other hand, Manolis Chatzidakis claims that western traces are few and they can be explained due to the contact with the paintings of the Cretan School.
Many of his paintings are stored and displayed at the Onufri Iconographic Museum in a former church in the old town of Berat. A major book publisher in Albania is named after him (Onufri Publishing House).
Icon by Onufri. Cathedral of Berat.
Icon of the Apostle Saint Peter, painted by Nikolla, son of Onufri, second half of 16th century. Today Onufri-Museum Berat.
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spored G. Golobijas, slikarot se vikal Onufrios Argitis...Argitis, znači proishodot na Onufrije od Argos ili e prezime na zografot, izvedeno, najverojatno, spored mestoto na proishod na negovite predci...So točnoto čitanje na zborovite „Onufrios Argitis" i „Venecija" od ktitorskiot natpis vo Kostur i pronaođanjeto na arhivskite podatoci za Onufrij vo registrite na matično na grčkoto bratstvo vo Venecija, spored G. Golobijas davaat definitiven odgovor na dolgogodišnite polemiki okolu prašanjeto za nacionalnosta na Onufrij i negovoto studiranje vo Venecija. So ovie novi rezultati na G. Golobijas se složuva i G. Subotić, eden od najdobrite poznavači na postvizantijskoto slikarstvo na Balkanot. Sledejći go slikarstvoto na Onufrij, G. Subotić napolno se soglasuva vo pogled na nacionalnosta na slikarot, koj e Grk od Argos. [According to G. Golobijas, painter's name was Onufri Argitis... meaning that Argitis is derived from Onufri from Argos or the last name of the painter is most probably derived from the place of origin of his ancestors... G. Golobijas believes that correct reading of the text "Onufrios Argitis" and "Venice" in the donators inscription in Kastoria and discovery of archived data of Onufri in the registers of his parent Greek brotherhood in Venice, provide definitive answer to all long-lasting debates about the ethnicity of Onufri and his education in Venice. G. Subotić, one of the best Balkan's experts in the late-Byzantine painting agrees with this new conclusions of G. Golobijas. G. Subotić fully agrees about ethnicity of the painter Onufry who is Greek from Argos.]
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