5. THE NATIVITY OF THE VIRGIN
135 x 83. Egg tempera on lime wood.
From the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin in the village of Vanivka (Poland). Lviv
This subject appeared in Byzantine art as far back as the 9th century, its literary sources being St. James' version of the Gospel and pseudo-Gospel according to St. Matthew. All representations of this theme are characterized by their narrativeness and bear, to some extent, the same features. The earliest composition on this subject in the art of Kyivan Rus' can be found in the 11th-century fresco in Kyiv's St. Sophia Cathedral. The main personage, St. Anna (mother of the Virgin Mary), is usually represented reclining on a bed (sometimes she is arising from it); she is surrounded with servants who, according to a Byzantine tradition, bring gifts, bathe a newly-born baby, or are preparing for these action. With time, the composition became enriched with such details like the wall dividing the representation into two conventional scenes. Often the image of St. Joachim (Mary's father) is depicted. The Ukrainian icon renders accurately all the elements peculiar to the iconography of the subject in Orthodox art. The theme preserves its solemn air which is emphasized by pavilions with complicated architectural forms, with veils thrown over them, ornaments and fern-like bushes decorating the terra verde of the foreground.
6. ST. GEORGE
116 x 54. Egg tempera on lime wood.
From St. Nicholas' Church in the village of Turye, Lviv region. Lviv National Museum.
In the 13th-14th centuries among various iconographic types of St. George (see 1, 4) we can find the representation of the Great Martyr as a personage of the Deesis range, but the Deesis to which this icon belonged was lost. We can assume, by analogy with other known works, that on the opposite side the composition had a symmetrically placed figure of another warrior, one of the legendary saints (St. Demetrius of Thessalonica or St.Theodore Stratelates). The introduction of holy warriors into such an important, from the theological point of view, part of an iconostasis can be explained in several ways:
In this icon St. George is represented in a characteristic attitude of entreaty. The saint is festively attired: the hem and the edging of his tunic are decorated with pearls and other precious stones and his cloak is fastened with a fibula. Such festivity is an echo of the court ceremony of Byzantine emperors which influenced Christian iconography. St. George's image, nevertheless, is imbued not with a secular feeling but with a deep sense of religious meditation. It impresses with its poetic mood and lyricism.
- that the donator was a serviceman;
- that the Deesis was created in honor of some battle victory;
- or that the donator was baptized with the name of the saint.
7. THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL FROM THE DEESIS RANGE
33 x 50. Egg tempera on lime wood.
From the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Drohobych, Lviv region.
The Deesis, to which the icon of the Archangel Michael belongs, has scarcely been preserved: the main personages of the central section, the Virgin Mary and Christ Pantocrator, have been lost, but the range of interceders, albeit not complete, including the icons of St. John the Baptist, the Apostle Peter, the Apostle Paul, St. John Chrysostom and St. Nicholas, has survived.
So we can maintain that once the icons comprised an entire register of the iconostasis. The Deesis range bears an emphasized concept of festivity: the background of the icons are decorated with ornamental patterns, bright flowers are painted on the terra verde, while the Archangel Michael is attired in a dalmatic, a lorum and a mantle studded with precious stones and pearls. He presents the so-called 'lorum' type of the archangel, which was popular in Byzantium and could be found in Kyiv's St. Sophia as early as the first half of the 11th century.
8. THE DEESIS
Late 15th century
120 x 59.5. Egg tempera on lime wood.
From the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin in the village of Starychi, Lviv region.
Lviv National Museum.
The icon presents the rarest type of the image of Christ Pantocrator. His full-length figure is draped in the heavy folds of a himation from which His right hand, in a gesture of blessing, is shown slightly emerging, while in His left hand He holds a closed Gospel. Despite the fact that Ukrainian icon-painting was at that time developing without religious censorship, the complicated political circumstances of the Ukraine demanded strict adherence to the canons of Old Rus' art which, in their turn, were borrowed from Byzantium. The polysemy of medieval art provided the opportunity of treating in this composition the image of Christ also as Pantocrator, the Judge who opens the Gospel on Doomsday. This is evidenced also by small half-figures of the Virgin and St. John the Baptist, seen in the upper corners of the icon. Being next to the Pantocrator, they impart to the icon the sense of Deesis (entreaty).
This icon bears the echo of monumental art, felt in the treatment of the solemn figure of Christ and the drapery of the wide himation and observed in the artist's deliberate emphasis, by means of size, on Christ's head and His right hand. Such conventionality was characteristic for Old Rus' art. It permitted the medieval painter to emphasize one or another detail and sometimes an attribute, and to thus accentuate their significance.
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