Cyprus Arts Between 8th and 12th Centuries

Cyprus Arts Between 8th and 12th Centuries

The agreement stipulated in 688 between Justinian II and the caliph ῾Abd al-Malik remained in force for almost three centuries, with only occasional moments of tension; in this period a certain prosperity is testified by exports to Syria; the settled Arab population seems to have cohabited quite harmoniously with the Christians. By the middle of the century. 10 ° the caliphate had however reached a state of decadence such as to allow the Emperor Nicephorus II Phocas (963-969) to fully restore Cyprus to the Byzantine state. The crucial strategic importance of Cyprus as a Byzantine naval base led to the settlement of a series of governors sent from Constantinople. Men like Philokales and Katakalon were not only a contact point with imperial interests in Syria and Palestine – and a watchful eye on Fatimid Egypt – but they also strengthened the links with the culture of the metropolis; under the patronage of the governors and their officers the island experienced a golden age for painting in the late 11th and especially in the 12th century. Architecturally, the churches decorated with pictorial cycles – most of them which belonged to small monastic communities that settled on Mount Troodos – they are not particularly impressive; their modest dimensions and the simplicity of the layout – they are generally buildings with a single nave, monoabsidato and with a dome – appear in stark contrast to the metropolitan quality level of the frescoes; given that in Constantinople no cycle of frescoes from the Comnenian period is preserved, these Cypriot examples (together with those of the northern Balkans) offer a important testimony of the art of that period. Architectural feature of these churches is the covering with large wooden roofs that enclose the domes and most of the walls, for example. at Aghios Nikolaos tis Steghis (S. Nicola del Tetto), at Kakopetria, or at Lagudera. More interesting from an architectural point of view are the three-apsidal churches with several domes, dating back to the century. 10 °, of Peristerona and of Ieroskipu, which seem to constitute the only evidence of an eminently local style: in fact, they are not churches of the usual type with an inscribed Greek cross, but rather of basilicas with a large central dome and minor domes resting on the nave, on the presbytery and on the transept. Particularly noteworthy is the case of Peristerona, where the studied proportion that links the minor domes, arranged on the four arms, the central dome reveals the organic nature of the entire project. As regards the monumental painting, it should be noted that the Arab attacks of the mid-century 7 ° caused the crisis and the dismemberment of the oldest shops (such as those active in Kiti) and even after the Byzantine reconquest of 965 the recovery was slow and there was no revival of mosaic art. erected at the beginning of the century. 11 ° on the cross-inscribed model, introduced in Cyprus only in the previous century: the rather irregular surfaces and the asymmetry of the entire building suggest a mediocre level of expertise on the part of local workers. For Cyprus 2006, please check computergees.com.

The church retains a fresco decoration dating from the late century. 11th, in the oldest part of which there is a cycle of Feasts and some busts of saints; if the artistic quality is not excellent, the work appears remarkable for the treatment of the faces (highlighted by the use of a light and impressionistic technique) and for the synthetic narrative style (for example the Entry into Jerusalem and the Resurrection of Lazarus), with large clearly delineated figures and the elimination of all secondary details. The style can be compared to that of the Panaghia ton Chalkeon in Thessaloniki (1028), the Hagia Sophia of Ohrid (1050) and the almost contemporary frescoes in the crypt of Hosios Lukas in Phocis. 12 ° the increased political importance of the island and the closer ties with Constantinople led to the foundation of new monasteries and a significant improvement in the artistic quality. In the Panaghia Phorbiotissa of Asinou – a tiny single-ship church covered by a simple barrel vault with a lowered arch, founded, as an inscription testifies, in 1105-1106 – the most ancient frescoes are preserved in the bema and in the upper part of the walls of the naós, where a cycle of the Feasts appears in a reduced form. The style is essentially linear, rather flat and expressive, but devoid of the pronounced mannerisms of the late-century Comnenian style. 12th: the graceful rhythmic grouping of the figures (eg in the Dormition) recalls the mosaics of St. Michael of Kiev, while the attempt to express deep feelings through the expressions of the faces anticipates the frescoes of Nerezi in Macedonia (1168). Remarkable testimony of the metropolitan style, this work proves to be of great importance since no other cycle of the first century. 12th can be dated just as precisely. The Enkleistra of Aghios Neophitos, N of Paphos, constitutes an exceptional rock complex comprising a hermitage cave (the cell of the saint) and the adjacent chapel of the Holy Cross. In the cell there is a depiction of Neophyte suppliant at the feet of Christ signed by Theodoros Apseudes (1183), the first Byzantine painter whose name is known. In the nearby depiction of the Anastasis, placed above a niche for funerary use and characterized by a surprising use of vermilion and idealized faces, one can identify the hand of another artist: the folds of the drapery, more mannered, reveal a more advanced style, but both painters were probably Constantinopolitan.

In reverse, the conventional linear style of the Passion cycle in the nave (datable to around 1196) and even more the rigid holy monks depicted in the narthex suggest the activity of local artists. In any case, it is worth noting that such a variety of artists work in such a small complex, all of the same generation and committed to satisfying the needs of a single client. with the political crisis marked by the usurpation of the despot Isaac Comnenus in 1185 and the conquest of the island by Richard the Lionheart at the beginning of the third crusade (1191). By 1192, the year in which Cyprus was sold to the French Guido di Lusignano, the frescoes of the Panaghia tu Araku (Our Lady of the Field) in Lagudera were completed. Overall, the paintings, which follow the traditional decorative program in the dome and apse and also include a cycle of festivals and numerous images of saints of monumental dimensions, present an extraordinary stylistic homogeneity, characterized by very complex articulations of the drapery. It is a more dynamic way, connected with the taste for courtly elegance, in which the development of imaginary architectures, the refinement of the ornamentation and the wide range of splendidly harmonized colors correspond to the attenuation of the expressiveness of the figures. The uniformity of the concept and project clearly suggests the existence of an enlightened client and a prominent painter who supervised the execution of the entire work. All this appears in stark contrast to the periphery of the site and the modesty of the architecture: a small single-ship hall, with a single apse, with a dome, supported by internal buttresses and blind arches leaning against the walls of the nave. The mannerisms that are captured in the execution (twisted serpentine folds, inflated ‘tails’ of the drapery, elongation of natural human proportions) are characteristic of late Roman art, in this case tempered by a certain courteous taste and devoid of the extremisms present in works slightly later, such as the frescoes of Kurbinovo in Macedonia (1199). Other important fresco cycles are found in the monastery of Aghios Chrysostomos near Kutsovendi, from the late century. 11 ° (Mango, Hawkins, 1964), in the church of Panaghia Amasgu in Monagri (Winfield, 1971; Boyd, 1974), in the church of the Apostles of Perachorio, of the late century. 12 °, and in the church of the Panaghia of Trikomo, of the sec. 12th (Winfield, 1972).

Cyprus Arts Between 8th and 12th Centuries