Theophanes The Greek


Greek Byzantine Painter

Influences - Manuscript Illumination

Painting Medium - Tempera and gilt on wood

Cause of Death - old age, he was 80 years old.

Theophanes the Greek's painting style is best described as bleakly orthodox, in spirit and in doctrine.  His holy figures, especially his Madonnas, are essentially graceful, detached creatures, mysterious, idealized, and meditative.  Theophanes succeeded in creating a compellingly believable spiritual world whose origins lay in the imagination rather than observed reality.

He was born in Crete. His family father and uncles were goldsmiths and craftsmen. He survived the great plague of the late 1340s but the consequences of the pandemic influenced his style and themes.  Theophanes left home at a young age and traveled widely. He was the leading Byzantine painter of his generation and one of the greatest iconographers of all times. 

Icons are different than paintings and do not represent what a artist sees. There is certain rigid compositional formula that an Icon painter must follow. Icons play an essential part in the Orthodox Faith.  They have been known to heal the sick, answer prayers and bring about miracles.

 He completed many great works in his long life time.  Theophanes' first great Muscovite masterpiece was the Book of Gospels of Boyar Koshka. He often collaborated with his favorite student, Andrei Rublev.

 Theophanes life revolved around God and the Church. This was typical of a man in the Middle Ages. Distinguished Medieval historian, Hendrik van Loon, states, " Deliberately they turned their backs upon a world which was filled with suffering and wickedness and injustice. They pulled down the blinds that the rays of the sun might not distract their attention from that chapter in the Apocalypse which told them of that heavenly light which was to illumine their happiness in all eternity. They tried to close their eyes to most of the joys of the world in which they lived that they might enjoy those which awaited them in the near future. They accepted life as a necessary evil and welcomed death as the beginning of a glorious day."

Most prominently featured in Theophanes the Greek's work are  the holy figures of the Christian faith--the -ChristSaints, The CrossVirgin Mary Chalice, Keys, The Anchor, Wheat The Good Shepherd, and The Apostles

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References - The Story of Mankind by Hendrik van Loon, published 1921