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Byzantine painting treatises: the case of Codex Panteleimoniensis 259
By Constantine M. Vapheiades
I quaderni del m.æ.s. / Journal of Mediæ Ætatis Sodalicium, Vol.16 (2018)
Abstract: This article aims to examine the material of a codex entitled Hermeneia of the Painters. The manuscript in question constitutes a copy of an esteemed constitutio textus of late byzantine period regarding the descriptions of Saint’s physiognomy along with quotations from their dicta and an entry of verses and epigrams related to biblical events. As I am intended to prove, byzantine painting manuals were not just a collection of technical and iconographical advises, like the post-byzantine ones, but mainly a corpus of theoretical knowledge necessary for artists’ nurture.
Introduction: Unlike anything concerning the West Medieval Europe, the use of painting manuals in Byzantium is not fully documented. A fragment of technical advice – as to how a painter could create a face or a garment properly – is preserved in the codex Vaticanus Graecus 209 (ca. 1355). Another type of technical advice is included in the codex Vaticanus Graecus 214, which prof. Phevronia Nousia attributed to Isidore, archbishop of Kiev and scribe of the 15th century. In the first six pages of this manuscript, recipes about the construction of various writing materials are set.
In addition to the above mentioned fragmentary technical advises I am obliged to remind the descriptions of saint’s physiognomy in numerous byzantine texts, such as the Paschalion Chronicle (7thc. = Vat. gr. 1941, 10thc.), the Pseudo-Ulpious’ text (9th – 10th c. = Par. Coislin. 296, 12th c.), and the Synaxarium Ecclesiae Constantinopolitane (10th c.), although these descriptions are hardly connected with painting practice.
Top Image: Detail from Christ Bearing the Cross, by Nicolaos Tzafouris – late medieval Byzantine art – photo courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art