Cretan portable icons

At the same time, production of portable icons continues in Crete, in constant interaction with the works of Cretans painting the monasteries of Greece, but also with the Italian art through Venice (a community of orthodox Greeks was established there since 1498). A sign of renaissance influence is the social ascent and the improved educational background of the painters. Those distinguished among them proudly sign their works, as Michael Damaskinos, signing as "poema of M. D." (=done by M.D.), or El Greco, signing as "Domenico Theotocopoulos the painter". In the majority, though, are not just individuals, but well organised professional teams, where, through the families, the son succeds his parent in the profession. Such famous painters' families were those of Theofanis Strelitzas, as well as Klotza's, Ritzo's, Lambardo's, Tzane's, Mosco's e.a.

Michael Damaskinos became famous at his time (referred 1570-1591). He developed the ability to work in different styles and to create excellent icons in the whole array, from impeccable byzantine to downright italian. Besides, he worked in Venice for the paintings of the church of St. George of the Greeks. He showed a new way to a blending of the traditional orthodox with the contemporary western art, and had many imitators.

George Klotzas was also important (referred 1562 - 1609), particularly skilful in codexes' miniatures and triptychs (with miniature style, too). His style was personal, closer to his contemporary manerism than to the tradition. He supposedly represented the tasteful aesthetics of the more learned set of the island, who were in direct contact with the Venetian culture. It is suggested that Domenico Theotocopoulos (El Greco) was an apprentice at Klotzas' workshop, and was already famous in Crete before he finally departed for Italy (1567).

Jeremiah Palladas, Emmanuel Lambardos (perhaps two painters bearing the latter name) and Aggelos lived later (beginning of 17th cent.). They opted for a more conservative approach towards the assimilation of western art. Aggelos, in particular, a rightfully famous painter, returns to the style of the early Cretan School, so much that dating of his works is disputed. Evidently, they represent a prevailing in the Greek people tendency to return to the traditions. A common recoil, we would say, expressing the wish to integrate the achievements of the West without losing the orthodox identity.

Candia was occupied by the Turks in 1669, and this was the end of the cultural thriving in Crete. The last noteworthy artists, as Emmanuel Tzanes (1610-1690), Theodoros Poulakis (1622-1692) and the painter known as Victor, heirs of the late Cretan conservative tendency, influenced by the baroque style, ended their lives as refugees in Venice and the Ionian Isles.

* The icon above is a work by Michael Damaskinos (second half of the 16th century), found at Stavronikita monastery in Mount Athos.

You can enlarge the paintings below by clicking on them

M. Damaskinos

The Last Supper (Monastery of St. Aikatherini of Sinai at Herakleion, Crete)

M. Damaskinos

Sts. Serge, Bacchus and Justine (referring to the Lepanto sea fight, 1571 - Antivouniotissa Museum at Corfu)

M. Damaskinos

Decapitation of St. Paraskevi (Kanellopoulou Museum at Athens)

Emmanuel Lambardos (?)

John the Baptist (Kythera Byzantine Art Collection)

Emm. Lambardos

The Lamentation (Byzantine Museum of Athens -exhibition: "Ceremony and Faith")

Emm. Tzanes

St. George (Chania Byzantine Collection)

Emm. Tzanes

The Holy Trinity (Benaki Museum at Athens)

Th. Poulakis

John the Baptist (Ioannina Byzantine Museum)