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    Please

    handle this volumewith care.

    The University of ConnecticutLibraries, Storrs

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    art. stx ND 2809.U48Byzantine frescoes from Yugoslav c

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    BYZANTINEFRESCOES

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    \BYZANTINEFRESCOESfrom Yugoslav Churches

    introduction byDavid Talbot Rice

    MENTOR]

    A MENTOR-UNESCO ART BOOKPUBLISHED BY

    THE NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY OF WORLD LITERATURE, INC.BY ARRANGEMENT WITH UNESCO

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    {\fTUP

    UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION 1963UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION 19o5

    FIRST PRINTING, MAY, 1963

    MENTOR TRADEMARK REG. U. S. PAT. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIESREGISTERED TRADEMARK MARCA REGISTRADAMENTOR-UNESCO ART BOOKS ARE PUBLISHED BY

    THE NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY OF WORLD LITERATURE, INC.501 MADISON AVENUE, NEW YORK 22, NEW YORK

    PRINTED IN ITALY BY AMILCARK P1ZZI S.P.A., MILANO

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    T he title of this book is perhaps somewhat misleading,M for it is only the painting of the eastern half ofwhat is today Yugoslavia, namely the provinces of Serbiaand Macedonia, that is dealt with here. The mountainsof Montenegro and Bosnia have always constituted amore effective barrier than the Adriatic Sea, and thelands to the east of them have for centuries formedpart of the Byzantine cultural sphere while the coastlandsto the west have been more closely linked with Italy.It is, then, the painting of Macedonia and Serbia that isour concern, and for the sake of convenience the subjectmay be considered under three principal headings: first,that done when both these provinces formed a part of thegreat Byzantine Empire with its capital at Constantinople;second that done after the Southern Slavs for thatis the meaning of the word "Yugoslavia" had achievedindependence, but when Byzantine influence was stillmuch to the fore; and third, that done after about 1350,when links both with East and West had to a greatextent been severed and when the painters were forcedto draw on local resources rather than to look elsewherefor inspiration.Of these periods, the paintings done during the first arcperhaps the most monumental and impressive, those ofthe second perhaps the most attractive and successfulartistically, while those of the third, though often interestinghistorically and iconographically and at times redolent ofconsiderable charm, were more restricted and on the wholeless important from the aesthetic point of view.

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    Most of the work of all these periods takes the form ofwall-painting; mosaic, perhaps the most characteristicByzantine art, is not represented in Yugoslavia. Paintedpanels were doubtless important from about 1200 onward,but not many dating from before about 1300 have survived.All the art, broadly speaking, belongs to the Byzantinefamily; that is to say, it follows a set iconography, isconcerned with wholly Christian themes, and is intendedfor church decoration. We know practically nothing aboutsecular art in Yugoslavia at this time, and very littleabout Byzantine secular art in general. But this doesnot mean that the work was unduly limited in character,or that it was lacking in expression, for much of it wasof very high quality and great beauty, even if the artistwas never permitted the same personal freedom as hewas in the Western world; and all of it was profoundlyspiritual. The artists worked, indeed, for the greater gloryof God, not for themselves, and the great sincerity thatsuch an approach entails served to redeem the lack offinish that is at times apparent. The basic spiritualityof approach that characterizes the work is surely nobad thing as a driving force toward the production ofgreat art.Unfortunately, not many monuments of the first periodsurvive, for this early work was often destroyed to makeway for more up-to-date decorations at subsequent dates.But there are a number of paintings in small churchesdistributed over Macedonia that are to be dated beforethe last quarter of the twelfth century, when the areawon' its independence from Byzantine overlordship; mostnotable are those at Yodoca (probably eleventh century),at Djurdjevi Stupovi (c. 1168), at Kurbinovo (c. 1191),and at Monastir near Prilep; the paintings at Kurbinovo,though in some ways rather primitive, nevertheless havea humanism and intimacy of approach unusual at thisearly period. But more important are the decorations oftwo larger and richer churches, one at Ochrid and theother at Nerezi, near Skoplje, both of which are in a moremetropolitan style. The paintings in the first date from n

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    The Church uf Ncrezi, 1164.

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    shortly before 1050; those in the second from 1164. Bothwere recovered from below layers of subsequent plasterand repaint in the years between the wars; the work ofcleaning and restoration at Ochrid has only recently beencompleted.The paintings at Ochrid adorn the church of Saint Sophia,originally a three-aisled cruciform building with a dome,of quite considerable size (Plates 1 to 7). The paintingsare of very high quality indeed. They comprise a numberof Old Testament and New Testament scenes, portraitsof saints, a striking frieze of angels, a moving renderingof the Forty Martyrs, an impressive Ascension on the roofof the apse, and a great Dormition of the Virgin on thewest wall. This served as a prototype for subsequentrenderings of the scene elsewhere, for it was one thatwas to become very popular in Yugoslavia, where itwas elaborated in a way hardly paralleled in ByzantineGreece. In Saint Sophia the rendering is comparativelysimple, even austere, but the figure of Christ, who standsbehind the bier to receive the Virgin's soul, is of greatbeauty; it was never surpassed in the whole of Byzantineart. His face is painted more subtly and with greaterexpression than it is, for instance, in the Ascension(Plate 1), and would seem to be by a different, thoughno doubt contemporary, hand. But if some of the otherfigures lack the tenderness of expression of the Christin the Dormition, all have grandeur and dignity thisis well exemplified in the figures of Apostles in theAscension or in those of the Fathers of the Church onthe lower registers of the walls and some show avividness of expression and liveliness of movement thatis equaled only in some of the miniature paintings of theage, like those of the Psalter in the British Museum, whichwas done in the Monastery of Studion at Constantinoplein 1066; the scene of the Sacrifice of Abraham at SaintSophia in Ochrid may be cited (Plate 4).It is however perhaps the grandeur of the compositionsand dignity of the figures that most distinguish thisseries of paintings, together with the beauty of the

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    coloring. This loo is to be classed as impressive ratherthan captivating, with its deep greens, purples, and blues,but the contrasts are supremely effective, and if at firstglance the tones seem somewhat somber and mournful,closer acquaintance proves their worth. "Bright colorscaptivate the crowd, but the true artist seeks to delightthe judicious," wrote Leonardo da Vinci. The coloringof the wall-paintings of Saint Sophia at Ochrid wouldcertainly not have displeased him.Few Byzantine wall-paintings of this age have survivedand the closest parallels to those in Saint Sophia atOchrid that we have are to be found in the great Byzantinemosaic decorations of the eleventh century, notably thatof Saint Sophia at Kiev (1037-61), where the samerather monumental style is to the fore; the Kiev mosaicswere done in part by Byzantine craftsmen who traveledfrom Constantinople for the purpose, and the Ochridpaintings are similarly to be attributed in part to Greekcraftsmen, but whether they came from the capital orfrom Salonica, which was almost equally important as acenter of artistic production, it is hard to say. In anycase there is little that one would term provincial aboutthe paintings at Ochrid; they must, in fact, be countedas one of the major monuments of mid-Byzantine artthat have come down to us.The next important group of paintings that survives onYugoslav soil is in the little church of Nerezi nearSkoplje (Plates 8 to 10). They were done in 1164, underthe patronage of a member of the Byzantine rulingfamily, the Comneni, and in this case there is goodreason to believe that the artist was brought fromConstantinople. But if the Ochrid paintings representthe grand manner of the Macedonian age of Byzantineart, those at Nerezi are in a distinct style and heraldthe art of the age that was to come, which is generallyknown as the Byzantine Renaissance or the ByzantineRevival. They are indeed extremely progressive works andare quite distinct both from most other Byzantine manifes-tations of twelfth-century date and from certain other

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    Studenica, Church of Milutin. Dormition of the Virgin.Detail: Apostles behind the open sarcophagus. (Sec Plate 22).

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    The Monastery uf Dciaui, 1327-1335.

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    paintings in Macedonia which are wholly provincial, suchas those in

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