Biography and information

Theophanes the Greek (about 1340 - about 1410) - the great Byzantine and Russian icon painter, master of monumental mural paintings and book graphics. Having a Greek origin, he received great recognition and fame on Russian soil. Considered a teacher Andrei Rublev.

Features of the artist Theophanes the Greek: Theophanes Greek style is distinguished by temperament, dynamic freedom, elaboration of individuality and psychologism of each image. The master works in the accepted canon, but at the same time he very boldly reformes the canon. Distinguishes his creativity and courage smear, and originality of color. For the frescoes of Theophanes the Greek is characterized by the so-called “cursive”, when the painting is almost monochrome, small details, clothes folds are not worked out, and the contours are outlined by swift lines. In his work, two poles of Byzantine spiritual culture are often embodied - chanting of earthly beauty as a Divine creation and striving for spiritual austerity, rejecting everything external and beautiful.
In the frescoes, Theophanes used bleaching highlights to impart greater spirituality and mysticism to the faces of the saints. At the same time, the general color scale is restrained and laconic (black, reddish-brown with shades, white prevail), reminding again monastic, ascetic renunciation of the diversity of phenomena and colors of the world. Theophanes writes in the manner of a deliberate isograph, in which the icon painters relied on the originals, accurately reproducing the contents of legends and writing. Such an artistic style allows you to create a human, and, at the same time, a sublime image.

Famous works of Theophanes the Greek: "Don Icon of the Mother of God", "Assumption of the Virgin", "Savior the Almighty", "Transfiguration", "Mother of God", "Savior in power", "Trinity", "Daniel the Stylite".

Master Information Sources

Information about the life of Theophanes the Greek, very few, is found in the Moscow and Novgorod annals. Of particular value is a letter written about 1413-1415 by Moscow spiritual writer and artist Epiphanius the Wise Archimandrite of the Tver Savior-Afanasiev Monastery and his friend Cyril Belozersky. The message of Epiphany gives an idea of the principles of the master's work and is the only source revealing some details of the life of Theophanes the Greek. "When he portrayed all this or wrote, no one saw him ever looking at the samples, as some of our icon painters do, who constantly stare at bewilderment, looking to and fro, and not so much writing with colors as looking at the samples. He, it seemed, wrote the painting with his hands, and he constantly walks, talks to those who come and ponders the high and wise with his mind, but sees sensible kindness with sensible intelligent eyes. parables "and his cunning system niyu ". Theophanes' ability to talk while working with all who came, which Epiphanius admired so much, apparently made the same impression as the genius of Leonardo da Vinci produced 100 years later.

Although Theophanes won wide acclaim, the dates of his life and death are always indicated only approximately. For sure it is only known that in 1413 Theophanes was no longer alive, as we learn from the above letter of Epiphanius the Wise.
All three Moscow churches in which Feofan participated in the annals are marked in the annals: the Nativity of the Virgin, the Archangel and the Annunciation. Epiphanius also mentions them. If, after finishing work on the Cathedral of the Annunciation in 1405, Grek would have managed to do some more major work, then the chronicles, and Epiphanius, would have noted this. Therefore, the date of death of the master is in the interval between 1405 and 1413 years.
Feofan died in old age, for the first news of him - work in Novgorod - is dated 1378. To come to Russia, he had to not only be a mature artist, but also at a mature age (25-30 years old): in Byzantium he had already managed to work on a number of churches. It turns out that Theophanes Grek's birth date should be searched for in the range of 1335-1340, and he lived in Russia for about 40 years, where he created his most famous works.

Belief and beliefs of Theophanes the Greek

By the time he arrived at Russia, Theophan was already inspired by the mystical teaching known as Hesychasm. The word "hesychasm" comes from the Greek hesychia - "calm", "silence", "detachment". This teaching was formed in the early Byzantine era, and it was possible to meet it only in monasteries. However, in the XIV century, the teachings went beyond them, received a theoretical justification and became available to the laity.
Hesychasm taught that the Word of God is perceived in silence. Rejection of verbosity, comprehension of the Word in its very depth and contemplative prayer will lead the way to the knowledge of God. But the main meaning of Hesychasm is not the highest prayer - it was comprehended through spiritual practice and consisted in absolute spiritual transformation, transformation. It is not by chance that Theophanes owns the Transfiguration icon. The light of the Tabor, which the apostles saw during the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ, was of great importance for the Hesychast practice. This light, as Hesychasts said, is the inner light of transfiguration. "The kingdom of God is inside a man" - Theophanes the Grec vividly embodies this idea in the manner of his painting.
Theophan was not just a religious, but even a deeply convinced man of how important spiritual strength, faith and activity especially in the country in which he lived. And the character of the great painter to match - hard, austere, reflecting. Researchers note that Theophanes Grecu is inherent in the denial of optimism. He admits that a person is initially sinful, therefore, he can only with fear and humility wait for the decision of his fate in the Last Judgment. And these beliefs well reflect the techniques of his work.

The choice in favor of Russia

Theophanes come from Byzantium, which is why he received the nickname “Greek”. Before coming to Russia, they had already painted forty stone churches in Constantinople, its suburb - Chalcedon, Galata. It was in Galata, which at that time was a rich Genoese colony, Feofan had the opportunity to get acquainted with Western culture. He saw her palazzo and churches, observed unusual for the Byzantine efficiency and free manners of Galatians. None of the Byzantine works of Theophanes has been preserved. From Galatia the master moved first to Kaffa (now Theodosius), and then to Novgorod. In the Eastern Crimea, scientists still associate with him or his school several frescoes. This, in particular, is about the painting of the church of St. Stephen in Feodosia and a small fresco in the church of St. John the Forerunner in Kerch.
Theophanes, like many of his contemporaries, could have gone to Italy, but perhaps he was not ready to part with the Orthodox faith. To remain in Byzantium, where more and more dry academism was affirmed in painting, did not correspond to its individual taste and aspirations. But in Russia, which was going through a period of boom, connected with the beginning of an active struggle for the liberation and unification of the Russian lands around Moscow, a wide field of activity opened up for him. The master was poisoned in his new homeland in the retinue of Metropolitan Cyprian. The choice of the artist was fully justified: in Moscow Russia the name of Theophanes the Greek became the first among a galaxy of brilliant painters. He arrived in Russia already mature, established master, and not an ordinary artisan. Thanks to the work of Theophanes, Russian artists were able to get acquainted with first-class examples of Byzantine art. His gift was truly original - taking its origins in the Byzantine tradition, it is closely intertwined and developed in collaboration with Russian culture.

Novgorod period

Theophanes the Greek settled in Novgorod in 1370. How did he get there, bypassing Moscow? We already know that he worked in Kaffa - the current Theodosia. Novgorodians had frequent trade relations with this city and could easily bring Feofan to him.
The first work made by him in Russia, the painting of the Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior on Ilyina Street. This is the only surviving work of the master, which has documentary evidence, dated 1378 year. This painting to this day remains the main source for judgments about the art of Feofan and his artistic style, which allows for a comparative analysis to determine his authorship in other works. The painting of the Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior was carried out by Theophanes by order of the boyar Vasily Danilovich and the townspeople and was completed in one summer. Only fragments of the original monumental ensemble of frescoes have survived to our days, but it is also possible to judge from them the powerful creative talent of the Byzantine icon painter.

The most grandiose image among the paintings of the temple is located in the altar dome: this is Christ the Almighty (Pantokrator) surrounded by four seraphims. In the drum (the base of the dome) are the forefathers Abel, Adam, Noah, Seth, Enoch, the prophets Elijah and John the Baptist; in the chamber are theologians and priests. The best preserved frescoes of the Trinity limit ("Trinity", "Worship the sacrifice", "Virgin").

The Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior is one of the most famous and valuable historical monuments of Novgorod. The works of Theophanes the Greeks located there influenced the work of a number of painters and gave birth to followers. For example, in the famous icon "Fatherland" (XIV century) there are seraphim, copied from the frescoes of the Savior on Ilyina church, in several works of the XV century there are parallels with Theophan's "Trinity".

Talent of Theophanes the Greek was manifested not only in the original artistic techniques, but also in the versatility of genres. Together with his monumental works, his miniatures became examples to follow. “He was a book by the deliberate izograf” - so this praise sounds at Epiphania. Theophan's influence is evident in the design of such manuscripts as the Psalter of Ivan the Terrible (the last decade of the XIV century) and Pogodinsky Prologue (the second half of the XIV century).

The next stage of the master's life path generates only the assumptions of researchers. There is information that he lived in Nizhny Novgorod, Serpukhov, Kolomna. The works of this period have not reached our days.

Moscow period

Theophanes moved to Moscow, approximately in 1390. By this time, he has already made out his own school, there are students and followers. Together with them, Feofan proceeds to the painting of a number of Moscow churches. With the active participation of the famous Moscow icon painter Simeon Cherny in 1395, Theophan painted the walls of the Church of the Nativity of Our Lady and the chapel of St. Lazarus in the Kremlin. Alas, this church has not been preserved, but the Theophan frescoes in the limits of St. Lazarus are shot down and re-plastered.
Four years later, Feofan Grek and his disciples set about decorating the Archangel Cathedral, the original painting of which was also lost.
The third and last major Moscow work of Feofan is the painting of the Church of the Annunciation in the Kremlin. Here he works together with the elder Prokhor with Gorodets and Andrei Rublev, leading all the work. The event is just the same historic, after all met two titans of medieval Russian painting, who expressed the spirit of the era with their art. Theophanes are in dramatic, sorrowful tones, Rublev is in harmonic, bright colors that embodied the dream of peace and harmony. In the Church of the Annunciation, Theophanes owns the compositions Apocalypse and The Root of Jesse. By tradition, he is also credited with the authorship of icons of the Deesis rank from the Blagoveshchensk iconostasis, while Andrei Rublev worked on icons depicting holidays. However, the iconostasis not only retained the overall design and harmonic composition, but also became a unique phenomenon. It was the first iconostasis in Russia with the image of the saints in full growth, and Theophanes the Greek and Andrei Rublev became the creators of the classic form of the Russian iconostasis. And, if the original painting of the temple itself has not reached us, then this iconostasis is still preserved.

Theophanes the Greek can be considered the creator of the new image of "Tenderness". The icon “The Virgin of the Don” (a modification of “Affection”, another name is “The Joy of All Joys”), which was revered by the altarpiece of the Assumption Cathedral of Kolomna, is considered by researchers to be a prototype. The icon itself is two-sided - the Assumption of Our Lady is shown on the reverse side. The Assumption Cathedral of Kolomna was built on the eve of the Kulikovo battle, and later, after the victory and assigning the name of Donskoy to Prince Dmitry Ioannovich, the church and the icon “The Virgin of Tenderness” also became known as the Don. Ivan the Terrible highly honored this icon, took it with him on his campaign in Kazan, and in 1591 carried it out during the battle with Kaza-Giray. When the battle ended with the victory of the Russians, "The Mother of God of the Don" was declared miraculous. The renowned image was transferred to the Blagoveshchensk Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. Do not forget the icon in our days. In the 20th century, during the German offensive, on the order of I. V. Stalin, she flew three times on an airplane over Moscow. Now this masterpiece is stored in the Tretyakov Gallery.

In Moscow, Feofan, as in Novgorod, probably worked on book graphics. According to the characteristic sharp lines and color, it is believed that the design of the Gospel of the boyar Fyodor Koshka, with its ornamental decorations, headpieces and zoomorphic initial letters, also belongs to Theophan. Concerning another famous manuscript, the Gospel of Khitrovo, they say that the work was most likely done by one of the followers of Theophan, possibly Andrei Rublev.

School of Theophanes the Greek

For almost half a century, Theophanes the Greek lived in Russia and wrote his most famous works for her. If all of them were preserved, then the legacy of Theophan would have been quite large. Of course, he did not work alone, but formed an entire school. Theophanes the Greek willingly passed on his knowledge, experience and lack of students.
Based on the letter of Epiphanius the Wise, we can confidently assume that the master was able to easily have interlocutors to himself, was open, sympathetic and good-natured. In addition, "Theophanes icon painter Gregin the Philosopher" enjoyed great prestige of the artist and thinker. The greatest of his students was Andrei Rublev. When painting the Cathedral of the Annunciation, he acted as an assistant, not a student. Nevertheless, the technical closeness of their work, especially the use of “stuffed cabbage” - the blue paint of an unusual bright tone, indicates that Rublev was for some time a pupil of Theophanes. Such an intense blue color can not be obtained from the usual palette of icon icon. In Theophanes it can be seen on the board of Our Lady of the Don. After her, there is no such color anywhere else, with the exception of Rublev's “Trinity,” which confirms the closeness of their work and the exceptional role of Theophan in the development of medieval Russian painting. And in the history of Russia itself, this Byzantine remained as outstanding as he was mysterious.

Author: Irina Frykina