16th century Veneto-Cretan Master, Nymphios, Tempera on Gilt Panel


Veneto-Cretan master of the early 16th century, icon of Christ the Bridegroom (or Nymphios).
Tempera on gilt panel.
Measure cm 41 x 29

Holy Week, in Eastern tradition and in Byzantine rite churches, is dominated by the theme of God’s marriage to humanity, from which the name of the icon derives. In fact, under this title we find three different icons, but linked to each other by their common location within the framework of the celebrations of Holy Week. This icon fixes the image of Christ the Bridegroom at the time which precedes the ascent to Calvary, representation known in the West under the name of Ecce Homo: Christ is represented with the red clamide and the crown of thorns.
The work focuses on the face of Christ, represented according to purely Byzantine canons: the precise contours, the dark eyes highlighted in black in the oriental way, the modulation of the complexion obtained under a dark and dense brown paint, a greater focus in cheek value, the bright color of the dress with a geometric fold pattern. Another Byzantine element is the magnificent gold background on which the halo stands out, meticulously engraved.
The subject of “Nymphios” is not very widespread in Veneto-Cretan painting, so it is a rare work.

The painting has undergone a conservative restoration at a specialized and approved laboratory consisting of cleaning old oxidized paintings to regain the splendor of the original colors. The gilding is entirely original and perfectly preserved. The wooden panel is well preserved and has never been parqueted.

The term “Cretan school” indicates an important pictorial school which was born in Crete towards the first half of the XIV century and developed slowly to settle in the second half of the XV century. At that time, the island was under Venetian control, which began in 1204 with the sack of Constantinople and ended in 1669.
This artistic school saw the evolution of the classical Byzantine style following the introduction of Western pictorial characters, notably Venetian but also Tuscan and Flemish. The formation of the new style of the Cretan school was determined mainly by the fact that before the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks, in 1453, many iconographers left mainland direct to the islands of the eastern Mediterranean, mainly Crete, bringing with him the art of the paleological Renaissance. The island, already under Venetian domination, it has become one of the most flourishing from an artistic point of view, because contact with Venetian artists has introduced aspects of the Italian Renaissance into Cretan art, in particular with regard to techniques and materials. There was a contamination between the two styles which led, between the 16th and the 17th century, to the birth of a new style.

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