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Figure 2 (left): Context view of the Enkleistra of St. Neophytos in Paphos. Figure 3 (above): Plan of the Enkleistra of St. Neophytos showing the caves: the Naos, Bema, and Cell with the tomb of the saint (from Mango and Hawkins 1966).

Paintings in the Enkleistra of St. Neophytos, Paphos, Cyprus Among the most important Byzantine painting schemes in Cyprus is the mural decoration in the Enkleistra of St. Neophytos in Paphos (Mango and Hawkins 1966; Stylianou and Stylianou 1985). The unusual rock-cut structure of the cell (Figure 2) and the unique surviving painting of high artistic quality impress visitors, pilgrims, and scholars. According to written testimonies, the Enkleistra (Figure 3) was painted in 1183 by Theodore Apseudes2—whereas the final phase of the paintings (mainly in the Naos) has been identified as work done after about 1196. The caves are all covered with wall paintings (Mango and Hawkins 1966), which were restored in 1503 by another monk of Neophytos (but this intervention is visible mainly in the Naos and the Bema). There are important stylistic differences between the earlier and later wall-painting schemes of the twelfth century. Whereas the earlier style is characterized by a rococo-like style of painting that appears to have evolved in Constantinople in the last quarter of the twelfth century (Figure 4), the later style is more austere and could be characterized as “monastic” or “Comnenian provincial” (or “linear”) (Figure 5; Mango and Hawkins 1966). 2 The fact that Apseudes was familiar with the newest Byzantine style of painting and that he signed his work suggests that he was not local but a metropolitan painter who was working in Cyprus at that time.

Methodology This research takes a holistic approach to material culture studies. Its methodology takes the form of a comprehensive technical study of the paintings that will include comparative data from in-situ scientific analyses by harnessing the analytical capabilities of a field ultraviolet/visible/ near-infrared (UV/Vis/NIR) spectrometer covering a spectral range of 350 to 2,500 nm, combined with those of a handheld XRF (X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy) and multispectral imaging spectroscopy (Fischer and Kakoulli 2006). In coordination with this work, research on art historical and technical literature and ancient treatises on Byzantine and medieval painting techniques and materials will be brought to bear.

Preliminary Results With the generous support by Dumbarton Oaks, a first visit to the site to conduct preliminary scientific investigations of the paintings using noninvasive technologies took place in September of 2008. During this phase, the research at the Enkleistra of St. Neophytos involved an introductory visual inspection of the paintings, photography of a few selected panels using diffuse tungsten light, spectral imaging, and preliminary spectroscopic measurements of paint layers from two of the painting schemes that were easily accessible (the 1183 and the post-1197 phase) using the UV/Vis/NIR spectrometer.

The aim of this exploratory phase was to establish the methodology for a potential full-scale research on this important painting scheme of the twelfth century in Cyprus and to assess the feasibility of the methods and approaches for a holistic study. In-situ noninvasive spectroscopic analysis using the UV/Vis/NIR spectrometer during the preliminary examination of the paintings in the Enkleistra showed very promising results with the identification of lazurite—the main component of lapis lazuli (possibly imported in Cyprus from Afghanistan through Constantinople)—red ochre, and other natural pigments (Figure 6). Of significant importance was the detection (using portable instrumentation) of organic materials often difficult to identify even with highly sophisticated analytical techniques (Chiavari et al. 1999). The organic spectral signature identified could correspond to a surface protective layer clearly visible in some areas (owing to its high gloss), which could be attributed to previous conservation treatments or to the original binding medium used to make the paint. Future detailed investigations will, however, address these questions. Discolorations of paint layers (especially those containing red pigments) are evident, and research will be carried out to identify the products and mechanisms of the alteration processes. Additional data using multispectral imaging and XRF in forthcoming campaigns will enhance and complement these results. 43 | Backdirt 2009

Backdirt 2009  

The Annual Review of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA.

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