The changing icons of Zante

By: | Post date: June 11, 2023 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture, Greece

The icons are throughout the museum, and on the upper floor, as the placards bemoaning the earthquake cease, they are arrayed in chronological order, to tell a story.

The Byzantine story may display some variation, but you would need a keener eye than mine to see it. Byzantine icons were highly stylized and highly conventionalized, and they’ve been reiterated a lot in modern times, so the contemporary Greek eye has been deadened to the variation among them.
Which is why the Byzantine frescoes are such a revelation to such a Greek. There is so much more stuff going on in them.
And then in the mid 18th century, so somewhat later than in Corfu (if I remember right), Western techniques come to icon painting. Nicholas Kallergis’ icons (that’s his signature, 1732) are still posed like in Byzantine style, but the faces are something new.
And then Western painting comes to town in full earnest, and it’s like someone has switched on the lights all of a sudden. I was particularly struck by the John Chrysostom (guy with candles).
Nicholas Kantounis, St John the Evangelist, 1833. We’re not in Byzantium any more:
—as indeed his self-portrait confirms, from the Solomos museum:
May be an image of 1 person
If you are used to Catholic devotional art, which I am not, these paintings may not make that much of an impression on you. They may not be particularly good, I don’t know
But as I said repeatedly, I have lived in the century of Kontoglou, of universal exceptionless Byzantine revival in icon painting. Seeing these icons in an Orthodox context blows me away.

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