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Icon of the Virgin and Child From the Church of St. Nicholas at Prijeko in Dubrovnik

Zoraida Demori Staničić ; Croatian Conservation Institute, Split, Croatia

Puni tekst: hrvatski, pdf (1 MB) str. 67-84 preuzimanja: 2.033* citiraj
APA 6th Edition
Demori Staničić, Z. (2013). Ikona Bogorodice s Djetetom iz crkve Sv. Nikole na Prijekom u Dubrovniku. Ars Adriatica, (3), 67-84. Preuzeto s
MLA 8th Edition
Demori Staničić, Zoraida. "Ikona Bogorodice s Djetetom iz crkve Sv. Nikole na Prijekom u Dubrovniku." Ars Adriatica, vol. , br. 3, 2013, str. 67-84. Citirano 14.07.2020.
Chicago 17th Edition
Demori Staničić, Zoraida. "Ikona Bogorodice s Djetetom iz crkve Sv. Nikole na Prijekom u Dubrovniku." Ars Adriatica , br. 3 (2013): 67-84.
Demori Staničić, Z. (2013). 'Ikona Bogorodice s Djetetom iz crkve Sv. Nikole na Prijekom u Dubrovniku', Ars Adriatica, (3), str. 67-84. Preuzeto s: (Datum pristupa: 14.07.2020.)
Demori Staničić Z. Ikona Bogorodice s Djetetom iz crkve Sv. Nikole na Prijekom u Dubrovniku. Ars Adriatica [Internet]. 2013 [pristupljeno 14.07.2020.];(3):67-84. Dostupno na:
Z. Demori Staničić, "Ikona Bogorodice s Djetetom iz crkve Sv. Nikole na Prijekom u Dubrovniku", Ars Adriatica, vol., br. 3, str. 67-84, 2013. [Online]. Dostupno na: [Citirano: 14.07.2020.]

Recent conservation and restoration work on the icon of the Virgin and Child which stood on the altar in the Church of St. Nicholas at Prijeko in Dubrovnik has enabled a new interpretation of this paining. The icon, painted on a panel made of poplar wood, features a centrally-placed Virgin holding the Child in her arms painted on a gold background between the two smaller figures of St. Peter and St. John the Baptist. The figures are painted in the manner of the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Dubrovnik style, and represent a later intervention which significantly changed the original appearance and composition of the older icon by adding the two saints and touching up the Virgin’s clothes with Renaissance ornaments, all of which was performed by the well-known Dubrovnik painter Nikola Božidarević. It can be assumed that the icon originally featured a standing or seated Virgin and Child.
The Virgin is depicted with her head slightly lowered and pointing to the Christ Child whom she is holding on her right side. The chubby boy is not seated on his mother’s lap but is reclining on his right side and leaning
forward while his face is turned towards the spectator. He is dressed in a red sleeveless tunic with a simple neck-line which is embroidered with gold thread. The Child is leaning himself on the Virgin’s right hand which is holding him. He is firmly grasping her thumb with one hand and her index finger with the other in a very intimate nursing gesture while she, true to the Hodegitria scheme, is pointing at him with her left hand, which is raised to the level of her breasts. Such an almost-realistic depiction of Christ as a small child with tiny eyes, mouth and nose, drastically departs from the model which portrays him with the mature face of an adult, as was customary in icon painting. The Virgin is wearing a luxurious gold cloak which was repainted with large Renaissance-style flowers. Her head is covered with a traditional maphorion which forms a wide ring around it and is encircled by a nimbus which was bored into the
gold background. Her skin tone is pink and lit diffusely, and was painted with almost no green shadows, which is typical of Byzantine painting. The Virgin’s face is striking and markedly oval. It is characterized by a silhouetted, long, thin nose which is connected to the eyebrows. The ridge of the nose is emphasized with a double edge and gently lit while
the almond-shaped eyes with dark circles are set below the inky arches of the eyebrows. The Virgin’s cheeks are smooth and rosy while her lips are red. The plasticity of her round chin is emphasized by a crease below the lower lip and its shadow. The Virgin’s eyes, nose and mouth are outlined with a thick red line. Her hands are light pink in colour and have
elongated fingers and pronounced, round muscles on the wrists. The fingers are separated and the nails are outlined with precision. The deep, resounding hues of the colour red and the gilding, together with the pale pink skin tone of her face, create an impression of monumentality.
The type of the reclining Christ Child has been identified in Byzantine iconography as the Anapeson. Its theological background lies in the emphasis of Christ’s dual nature: although the Christ Child is asleep, the Christ as God is always keeping watch over humans. The image was inspired by a phrase from Genesis 49: 9 about a sleeping lion to whom Christ is compared: the lion sleeps with his eyes open. The Anapeson is drowsy and awake at the same time, and therefore his eyes are not completely shut. Such a paradox is a theological anticipation of his “sleep” in the tomb and represents an allegory of his death and Resurrection. The position, gesture and clothes of the Anapeson in Byzantine art are not always the same. Most frequently, the Christ
Child is not depicted lying in his mother’s arms but on an oval bed or pillow, resting his head on his hand, while the Virgin is kneeling by his side. Therefore, the Anapeson from Dubrovnik is unique thanks to the conspicuously humanized relationship between the figures which is
particularly evident in Christ’s explicitly intimate gesture of grasping the fingers of his mother’s hand: his right hand is literally “inserting” itself in the space between the Virgin’s thumb and index finger. At the same time, the baring of his arms provided the painter with an opportunity to depict the pale tones of a child’s tender skin.
The problem of the iconography of the Anapeson in the medieval painting at Dubrovnik is further complicated by a painting which was greatly venerated in Župa Dubrovačka as Santa Maria del Breno. It has not been preserved but an illustration of it was published in Gumppenberg’s
famous Atlas Marianus which shows the Virgin seated on a high-backed throne and holding the sleeping and reclining Child. The position of this Anapeson Christ does not correspond fully to the icon from the Church of St. Nicholas because the Child is lying on its back and his naked body is covered with the swaddling fabric.
The icon of the Virgin and Child from Prijeko claims a special place in the corpus of Romanesque icons on the Adriatic through its monumentality and intimate character. The details of the striking and lively Virgin’s face, dominated by the pronounced and gently curved Cimabuesque nose joined to the shallow arches of her eyebrows, link her with the Benedictine Virgin at Zadar. Furthermore, based on the manner of painting characterized by the use of intense red for the shadows in the nose and eye area, together with the characteristic shape of the elongated, narrow eyes, this Virgin and Child should be brought into connection with the painter who is known as the Master of the Benedictine Virgin.
The so-called Benedictine Virgin is an icon, now at the Benedictine Convent at Zadar, which depicts the Virgin seated on a throne with a red, ceremonial, imperial cushion, in a solemn scheme of the Kyriotissa, the heavenly queen holding the Christ Child on her lap.
The throne is wooden and has a round back topped with wooden finials which can also be seen in the Byzantine Kahn Virgin and the Mellon Madonna, as well as in later Veneto-Cretan painting. The throne is set under a shallow ciborium arch which is rendered in relief and supported
by twisted colonettes and so the painting itself is sunk into the surface of the panel. A very similar scheme with a triumphal arch can be seen on Byzantine ivory diptychs with shallow ciborium arches and twisted colonettes. In its composition, the icon from Prijeko is a combination of
the Kyr i ot i ss a and the Hodegitria, because the Virgin as the heavenly queen does not hold the Christ Child frontally before her but on her right-hand side while pointing at him as the road to salvation. He is seated on his mother’s arm and is supporting himself by pressing his crossed legs
against her thigh which symbolizes his future Passion. He is wearing a formal classical costume with a red cloak over his shoulder. He is depicted in half profile which opens up the frontal view of the red clavus on his navy blue chiton.
He is blessing with the two fingers of his right hand and at the same time reaching for the unusual flower rendered in pastiglia which the Virgin is raising in her left hand and offering to him. At the same time, she is holding the lower part of Christ’s body tightly with her right hand.
Various scholars have dated the icon of the Benedictine Virgin to the early fourteenth century. While Gothic features are particularly evident in the costumes of the donors, the elements such as the modelling of the throne
and the presence of the ceremonial cushion belong to the Byzantine style of the thirteenth century. The back of the icon of the Benedictine Virgin features the figure of St. Peter set within a border consisting of a lively and colourful vegetal scroll which could be understood as either Romanesque or Byzantine. However, St. Peter’s identifying titulus is written in Latin while that of the Virgin is in Greek. The figure of St. Peter was painted according to the Byzantine tradition: his striking and severe face is rendered linearly in a rigid composition, which is complemented by his classical contrapposto against a green-gray parapet wall, while the background is of dark green-blue colour. Equally Byzantine is the
manner of depicting the drapery with flat, shallow folds filled with white lines at the bottom of the garment while, at the same time, the curved undulating hem of the cloak which falls down St. Peter’s right side is Gothic.
The overall appearance of St. Peter is perhaps even more Byzantine than that of the Virgin. Such elements, together with the typically Byzantine costumes, speak clearly of a skilful artist who uses hybrid visual language
consisting of Byzantine painting and elements of the Romanesque and Gothic. Of particular interest are the wide nimbuses surrounding the heads of the Virgin and Child (St. Peter has a flat one) which are rendered in relief and filled with a neat sequence of shallow blind arches
executed in the pastiglia technique which, according to M. Frinta, originated in Cyprus.
The Venetian and Byzantine elements of the Benedictine Virgin have already been pointed out in the scholarship. Apart from importing art works and artists such as painters and mosaic makers directly from Byzantium into Venice, what was the extent and nature of the Byzantine
influence on Venetian artistic achievements in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries? We know that the art of Venice and the West alike were affected by the Fourth Crusade and the sack of Constantinople in 1204, and by the newly founded Latin Empire which lasted until 1261.
The Venetians played a particularly significant political and administrative role in this Empire and the contemporary hybrid artistic style of the eastern Mediterranean, called Crusader Art and marked by the strong involvement of the Knights Templar, must have been disseminated through the established routes. In addition to Cyprus, Apulia and Sicily which served as stops for the artists and art works en route to Venice and Tuscany, another station must have been Dalmatia where eastern and western influences intermingled and complemented each other.
However, it is interesting that the icon of the Benedictine Virgin, apart from negligible variations, imitates almost completely the iconographic scheme of the Madonna di Ripalta at Cerignola on the Italian side of the Adriatic, which has been dated to the early thirteenth century and whose
provenance has been sought in the area between southern Italy (Campania) and Cyprus. Far more Byzantine is another Apulian icon, that of a fourteenth-century enthroned Virgin from the basilica of St. Nicholas at Bari with which the Benedictine Virgin from Zadar shares certain features such as the composition and posture of the figures, the depiction
of donors and Christ’s costume. A similar scheme, which indicates a common source, can be seen on a series of icons of the enthroned Virgin from Tuscany.
The icon of the Virgin and Child from Prijeko is very important for local Romanesque painting of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century because it expands the oeuvre of the Master of the Benedictine Virgin. An
icon which is now at Toronto, in the University of Toronto Art Centre Malcove Collection, has also been attributed to this master. This small two-sided icon which might have been a diptych panel, as can be judged from its typology, depicts the Virgin with the Anapeson in the upper register while below is the scene from the martyrdom of St. Lawrence. The Virgin is flanked by the figures of saints: to the left is the figure of St. Francis while the saint on the right-hand side has been lost due to damage sustained to the icon. The busts of SS Peter and Paul are at the top.
The physiognomies of the Virgin and Child correspond to those of the Benedictine Virgin and the Prijeko icon. The Anapeson, unlike the one at Dubrovnik, is wrapped in a rich, red cloak decorated with lumeggiature, which covers his entire body except the left fist and shin. On the basis of the upper register of this icon, it can be concluded that the Master of the Benedictine Virgin is equally adept at applying the repertoire and style of Byzantine and Western painting alike; the lower register of the icon with its descriptive depiction of the martyrdom of St.
Lawrence is completely Byzantine in that it portrays the Roman emperor attending the saint’s torture as a crowned Byzantine ruler. Such unquestionable stylistic ambivalence – the presence of the elements from both Byzantine and Italian painting – can also be seen on the icons of the
Benedictine and Prijeko Virgin and they point to a painter who works in a “combined style.” Perhaps he should be sought among the artists who are mentioned as pictores greci in Dubrovnik, Kotor and Zadar. The links between Dalmatian icons and Apulia and Tuscany have already been noted, but the analysis of these paintings should also contain the hitherto ignored segment of Sicilian and eastern Mediterranean Byzantinism, including Cyprus as the centre of Crusader Art.
The question of the provenance of the Master of the Benedictine Virgin remains open although the icon of the Virgin and Child from Prijeko points to the possibility that he may have been active in Dalmatia.
However, stylistic expressions of the two icons from Zadar and Dubrovnik, together with the one which is today at Toronto, clearly demonstrate the coalescing of cults and forms which arrived to the Adriatic shores from
further afield, well beyond the Adriatic, and which were influenced by the significant, hitherto unrecognized, role of the eastern Mediterranean.

Ključne riječi
icon; Virgin and Child; Dubrovnik; Church of St. Nicholas at Prijeko; thirteenth century; Master of the Benedictine Virgin; Dalmatia; painting in the eastern Mediterranean

Hrčak ID: 112035



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