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An important triptych by the Cretan Icon Painter George Klontzas


triptych closed

central wing Crucifixion


left wing closed

left wing open

right wing open

right wing closed


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EXPERTISE for AN IMPORTANT TRIPTYCH BY GEORGE KLONTZAS OBJECT INFORMATION: A triptych with Christological scenes and portraits of Old Testament Prophets presented in a carved and gilt wooden setting Painted by George Klontzas (1540-1602), last quarter of the 16th century Closed: 63.5 x 40 (upper part) 28 cm Extended: 81.5 cm LITERATURE: John Stuart, Ikons, London, 1975, ill. 60-61 Maria Constantoudaki-Kitromilides, ‘A Triptych by George Klontzas once in a Foreign Private Collection’, in Acts of the Fifth International Congress of Cretan Studies, Vol.II (Herakleion, 1985), pp. 209-249, pls. 37-48 Remarks of Panayiotis Vokotopoulos in Enthymesis Nikolaou M. Panagiotakis, Herakleio 2000, pp. 104-105, figs 3-4 PURPOSE OF THE REPORT: The purpose of this report is (a) to provide a visual guide to the triptych through a detailed description of the iconography of each panel (b) to put the triptych in the context of George Klontzas’ production and explain the importance of the triptych’s emergence both for the further understanding of Klontzas’ art and also, for the cultural milieu in which it was painted STRUCTURE OF THE REPORT: To respond to the above quests, the report follows a structure as outlined below: (a) Description of iconography, including the arrangement of the episodes and the iconography of each individual panel (b) The artist George Klontzas and the artistic milieu in Venetian Crete (c) Iconographic comparisons with other triptychs painted by George Klontzas (d) The triptych’s contribution in the artistic sphere in which it was painted


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Arrangement of the triptych:

(a)

The triptych comprises of a central wing (fig. a), supported by an elaborately carved and gilded wooden pedestal and an opulent crowning structure. The pedestal is decorated with profoundly carved vine scrolls on deep blue ground, flanking a circular cartouche with a code of arms, and terminates to a griffin head in profile on either side. The arched upper part of the panel is framed by a foliage band in relief with an angel head on the summit and two naked cherubs on the sides. Fifteen medallions which portray half-length images of prophets holding extended scrolls appear amidst lavish vegetation on the remaining surface. Most of the inscriptions that accompany the prophets are still legible hence the majority of the figures are identifiable: the two figures in the bottom roundels are Gideon and Job, left and right respectively. Above are Jeremiah and Ezekiel (?) and opposite, Jonas and Abbacum. Recognisable among the rest are Isaiah Zacharias, Jeremiah and Adam. !


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(b)

(c)

Two arched wings are hinged respectively to the left and right of the central panel (figs. b and c above). When the triptych is closed, the wing that appears on the top is the left one and it shows the scene of the Annunciation surrounded by images of seated prophets, holding inscribed plates or scrolls. This wing unfolds from right to left to reveal the upper side of the right panel which shows the Nativity of Christ and in smaller scale on the lower part the arrival of Joseph and Maria in Bethlehem and their registration for the population census that had been instructed by the Romans.

(d)

When the two wings are open, the viewer sees three panels (fig. d). Illustrated on the left panel is a multiple composition that provides a visual account of the events that preceded the Crucifixion, starting with the focal scene of the Last Supper and terminating with the procession to Calvary. The central panel represents a sophisticated rendition of the Crucifixion and subsequent events, whereas the last wing depicts a detailed version of the Anastasis.


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(a) Iconography Panel 1: The Annunciation surrounded by eight images of seated Prophets

(e)

The central scene of the Annunciation dominates the panel as it takes place in an interior space, before two large buildings joined by a lower construction, with a marble-emulating floor (fig. e). To the left of the composition the winged Archangel Gabriel with plaited hair adjusted by a diadem, dressed in a deep pink chiton and green himation, holds a blooming sceptre and advances towards the Mother of God. The latter is standing on a low suppendaneum in front of a backless throne carved with two full-length figures and cushions on the top. The Mother of God is attired in a green chiton, a crimson maphorion and bright red shoes. She is holding the skein of red wool and leans forward to receive the message of the Archangel. Amidst the marble structures in the background there is a tall tree with dense green foliage. The arched, upper part of the composition shows the heavenly realm visible through the clouds, which form a ring as they encircle a radiating dove, a personification of the Holy Spirit. On the summit is God the Father, gesturing in blessing and holding an orb, flanked by two cherubs and attended by nine angels in adoration.


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The episode of the Annunciation is surrounded by the figures of eight prophets, all of whom are portrayed seated either on thrones in interior spaces or on rocky hills, presenting inscribed plates or scrolls, with the exception of the figure to the lower left corner who holds a closed book. Recognisable among them is Ezekiel, second from the left on the lower register whose inscribed plate quotes his verse 44.2, that refers to the miraculous conception of the Mother of God: !"#$ % &'() *+*(+,-µ./), *01 #2"+13 +4-+(+'-+50, ",6 02573.(This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it). Next to him, King David plays an harp whereas the plate at his side records his Psalm 86: 8+"#90-µ./0 +(0(:;) &+<= -#>… . The second figure on the right column shows Jeremiah whose plaque quotes 31,15: ?@/A B/ C0µ0 D*#'-;)… (A voice is heard in Ramah [mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more]), whereas the small figures in the background might actually refer to the lost children of Rachel, as per the complete verse 31,15. Panel 2: Narrative of the Nativity

(f)

The composition consists of three events, two of which are depicted in smaller scale in the lower part of the panel, whereas the main scene takes over the greater, upper section (fig. f). The foreground, beginning from the left, shows the registration of the Mother of God and Joseph in Bethlehem in the presence of a Jewish priest and a Roman soldier. The priest, seated under a construction of classical style, observes Joseph standing behind a table draped


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with a traditional woven tablecloth with the Mother of God by his side. In a protective manner the latter rests her hand over her pregant belly. Behind her there is a queue of people awaiting to register. The second scene on the right shows the Mother of God and Joseph following their registration; as they had no shelter to go to, the Mother of God pauses on a stone attended by Joseph with their donkey nearby. An angel points the cave above to Joseph and a flight of steps on the far right of the composition naturally leads the narrative to the major episode of the panel, the Nativity of Christ and successive events. Hence, the upper part of the image focuses on the oversized figure of the Mother of God reclining on a red mattress. To her left a manger that emulates a marble sarcophagus includes the newborn, swaddled Christ being warmed up by the breath of the ox and ass. Joseph, seated behind the Mother of God, is approached by two Shepherds, whereas the first bath of the infant takes place at her feet. A maid holds the naked Baby, while a second helper prepares the chalice-shaped tub. The arched top of the image is organised around the rocky summit of the cave; an angel to the left announces the Birth to the shephers and opposite, a group of angels gesture in amazement and adoration for the miraculous event. A radiating star originating from the open skies, transcends the material world and is directed to the mouth of the cave. To the far right, a group of equestrian men headed by the three Wise Men, guided by the star, proceed towards the cave in order to meet Christ. The men at the back of the procession carry flags as they emerge from the town gate. Panel 3: The Last Supper surrounded by events which preceded the Crucifixion This panel represents via five scenes the narrative which led to the Crucifixion (fig. g). The prevailing event is the Last Supper, through which Christ Himself initiated the procedure of the Passion; it is depicted in the centre of the composition. Christ and the twelve apostles, attended by a number of servants, sit on benches around an oblog table diagonally placed in the room. The walls are veneered in marble and a large chandelier with red candles hangs from the ceiling which is made of wooden beams. A matching candleholder appears above the left door. The rope that adjusts the chandelierâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s height is fastened on the opposite wall. The image captures the moments just before dining, hence the wine, fish, bread buns and knifes are still intact on the table. The apostles in agitated mood gesture vividly, with the exception of the yourful and beardless St. John the Evangelist who is asleep by Christâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s left side. The kneeling servant in the foreground deals with the bread and wine, the one to the left presents a tray with poultry, whereas the three that stand at the door on the right attend in anticipation of instructions. ! !


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(g)

The surrounding, smaller scenes depict the following events: starting from the upper left compartment is the Prayer in the Gesthemane Garden. Against a rocky plateau the kneeling Christ raises his hands in supplication, in the presence of His disciples, three of whom are sleeping. The next event, shown accross, is the Presentation of Christ before Caiaphas. Following His arrest, Christ was lead by the Roman soldier who is standing by His side to the palace of the Jewish High Priest. The third event illustrated in the lower left compartment, represents the Flagellation of Christ and the one opposite, illustrates the Mocking of Christ, where he is guised as the King of Jews. Two Roman soldiers put respectively a crown of thorns on His Head and a cane sceptre in His hands. The bottom register focuses on the Procession to Calvary, headed by a man who carries a ladder and the two thieves with bound wrists, followed by the figure of Christ (now missing) carrying His own cross. Behind there is a large crowd of people, comprising of men, women and children. At the end of the procession two men bear another ladder. The arched top of the panel portrays six angels on clouds, holding the Instruments of Passion against the open, golden heavens.


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Panel 4: The Crucifixion and subsequent events This panel, showing the Crucifixion, is the most prominent of the triptych both because it holds the central position in the layout of the object and further, because its portrayed scene is essentially the culmination of the entire visual narrative (fig.h). The function of the episodes already discussed was to lead to the Crucifixion, whereas the one that follows, the Anastasis, results from it. The composition is quite sophisticated and complex, as it is not limited to the sole incident of the Crucifixion. Instead, it includes a large crowd of figures and also, thoroughly depicted events which took place following the Crucifixion. Furthermore, it encompasses several other details which refer to the social milieu during which the triptych was painted.

(h)

The image is structured along the cliffs of Golgotha. The Crucifix with the lifeless body of Christ and his wounds bleeding is positioned on the vertical axis of the composition; set on the peak of the rocky hill it basically governs the entire image. It is flanked by the crucified bodies of the two thieves, with their hands tied on the horizontal crossbars and their feet nailed on the lower part of the cross. A winged figure, personification of Devil, flees from the mouth of the dying thieve to the right. Golgotha was located outside the walls of the city, hence the buildings behind the three Crucifixes and the gate to the right corner suggest the walled city of Jerusalem. The small, dark cave at the bottom of the cross of Christ shows the skull of Adam. Golgotha had been the burial place of the Father of All Humanity and his skullâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s inclusion in the iconography signifies that the sacrifice of Christ, who in the Christian religion is considered the second Adam, will deliver and save people from the original !


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sin. Such view of two Adams is found in the epistles of St. Paul (Romans 5:14 and I Corinthians 15:22, 45) and it is also referred to in the akathist compositions “Wishing to bestow His grace…” (Kontakion 12). A crowd of equestrian Jews, attended by Roman soldiers, encircle the three crucifixes and gesture agitedly in mocking. Another group of people, proceeding from the right gate, observe the happenings more discreetly, whereas the mass below Golgotha consists of Jews mixed with soldiers in armour, some of who carry standards, either decorated with linear and scroll patterns or applied with coats of arms. The latter crests include variations of the double-headed eagle and belonged most probably to Orthodox families of the Ionian Islands, where the majority of the Greek nobility used to live during the period that this triptych was painted. The rocky hill in the lower part of the composition defines the space where the lamentation of the Mother of God took place. Surrounded by female figures in mourning, attended at the upper left by St. John the Theologian, the Mother of God having collapsed is shown in the foreground. Recognisable among the women is St. Mary Magdalen with long, loose hair. Depicted to the opposite corner is the casting of lots for Christ’s seamless chiton, among the soldiers who crucified Him. The purple robe is shown in the lower right corner, whereas the the soldiers behind play the dice in a backgammon and chess board Panel 5: The Anastasis

(i) Like the previous panel, this version of the Anastasis is not limited to the basic details of the event after which it is named. Instead, the core iconography of Christ’s sojourn in the underworld following His entombment, is supplemented by a large number of Old Testament figures and a thorough representation of Hell.


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In Orthodox Christian iconography, the Resurrection of Christ is visually rendered through His descent into Hell where, having redeemed the Original Sin, He defeated the personification of Evil and raised the Forefathers and Righteous People of the Old Testament. As the Evangelist Matthew describes in his Gospel, 27:51-53 ‘[...] The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection […]’. The two rugged mountain peaks on the upper part of the imagery represent the rock ripped apart mentioned by Matthew. Below is the oversized figure of Christ with his wounds visible, dressed in a loin cloth and a red himation, which hangs over his left shoulder, against an ovoid radiating mandorla. In a contrapostal stance, Christ grabs Adam and Eve by their wrists and drags them out of their sarcophagi. Behind them there is a large number of Old Testament figures; among them is Noah lifting a model of his arc at the far right. The group of figures to the left is headed by Kings David and Solomon, as well as St. John the Baptist. The latter was preaching about the coming of Christ in the Underworld, as he had done during his life on earth. Christ tramples the hairy monster that represents Evil, thus signifying also His victory over Death. The foreground of the imagery shows another group of Old Testament people, young and old, pleading for mercy, whereas four more black, hairy, horned creatures with tails, servants of the Devil, struggle to survive; two of them still try to protect the broken gates of Hades. The one to the right is trampled by an archangel, whereas at the opposite corner a fallen angel is sitting in isolation, turning his back to the event. The dark abyss of the Underworld is scattered with the keys and bolts that used to keep the gates fastened and locked. The arched, top part of the panel, shows seven floating cherubs and three winged angels, one of which is carrying the cross, the instrument of Christ’s sacrifice, hence the means of humanity’s salvation. (a) THE ARTIST GEORGE KLONTZAS AND THE ARTISTIC PRODUCTION IN VENETIAN CRETE $%&!'()*!+,'*-&.!/&).0&!12)*-3,4!5"67#8"9#:;!<,4!=).*!,*>!-.,'*&>!'*!?.&-&@! <%'(%!,-!-%&!-'A&!%,>!,2.&,>B!=&&*!,!()2)*B!)C!D&*'(&!C).!)E&.!-%.&&!(&*-F.'&4! 5"G"G8"99H@!IF(%B!)C!?,*>',;J!$%&!,.-'4-'(!+.)>F(-')*!)*!?.&-&@!>&&+2B!.))-&>!'*! -%&!KB3,*-'*&!-.,>'-')*@!<,4!%&,E'2B!'*C2F&*(&>!=B!-%&!L&4-&.*!-.&*>4!,*>! >&E&2)+A&*-4@!<%'(%!.&,(%&>!-%&!'42,*>!-%.)F0%!-%&!D&*&-',*4!,*>!-%&!()*4-,*-! ()AAF*'(,-')*!<'-%!L&4-&.*!MF.)+&J!!!!! ! /&).0&!12)*-3,4!'4!)*&!)C!-%&!,.-'4-4!<%)!A,4-&.&>!-%&!=2&*>'*0!)C!-%&!-<)!4-B2&4@! KB3,*-'*&!,*>!L&4-&.*J!N&@!'*!C,(-@!=&2)*0&>!-)!,!0.)F+!)C!4F(%!,.-'4-4!-%,-! (2&,.2B!&A&.0&>!'*!-%&!"6-%!(&*-F.BJ!O-%&.!+.)A'*&*-!+,'*-&.4!<%)!<).P&>!'*!,! ()A+,.,=2&!A,**&.!<&.&!Q*>.&,4!R'-3)4!,*>!Q*>.&,4!S,E',4!'*!-%&!"6-%!(&*-F.B@! T'(%,&2!I,A,4P&*)4!,*>!I)A&*'P)4!$%&)-)P)+)F2)4!'*!-%&!"9-%!(&*-F.B@!,4!<&22! ,4!$%&)>).)4!S)F2,P'4!'*!-%&!":-%!(&*-F.BJ!!


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c) ICONOGRAPHIC COMPARISONS WITH OTHER TRIPTYCHS PAINTED BY GEORGE KLONTZAS #$%&'$!()%*+,-.!4-3*+$7!3;%*./!+&34+=;0.!-.!1$))!-.!6-*<.;&34+!3))<63*-+3%*.9! D$'-&73*'!03.!4&%7<;+3%*!%5!+&34+=;0./!103;0!3.!6%&$!&$)$2-*+!+%!+0$!4<&4%.$.!%5! +03.!.+<7=!E53'9!CF/!3+!3.!1%&+0!6$*+3%*3*'!+0-+!+0$&$!-&$!-+!)$-.+!$3'0+!+&34+=;0.! 4-3*+$7!8=!+0$!-&+3.+/!+0&$$!%5!103;0!-&$!.3'*$7!103)$!+0$!%+0$&.!-&$!.-5$)=! -++&38<+$7!+%!0369! ! G6%*'!+0$!6%.+!5-6%<.!-&$!+0$!+&34+=;0.!5&%6!+0$!;%))$;+3%*!%5!+0$!H$))$*3;! I*.+3+<+$!3*!J$*3;$!E53'9!>F!-*7!+0$!%*$!5&%6!+0$!;%))$;+3%*!%5!K-&3-**-!L-+.3.!3*! G+0$*.!E53'9!)F9!@%+0!+&34+=;0.!-&$!364&$..32$!-.!+0$=!4%&+&-=!.;$*$.!&$)-+$7!+%!+0$! G4%;-)=4.$!-*7!+0$!G7%&-+3%*!%5!+0$!K%+0$&!%5!#%79!:0$!)-++$&!.<8C$;+.!1$&$! -6%*'!+0$!6%.+!4%4<)-&!$*;%<*+$&$7!%*!1%&>.!8=!()%*+,-.9! !

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(k) George Klontzas, Triptych with the Second Coming, late 16th century, Collection of the Hellenic Institute, Venice

(l) George Klontzas, Triptych with the Second Coming, the Resurrection, the â&#x20AC;&#x153;In thee Rejoicethâ&#x20AC;? and a landscape of Mount Sinai, late 16th century, Collection of Marianna Latsis, Athens.


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(m) George Klontzas, The Mocking of Christ, the Way to Calvary and the Crucifixion, Collection of the Walters Art Musem, Baltimore.

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(n) George Klontzas, The Narrative of the Holy Passion, Private Collection, London

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An important triptych by the Cretan Icon Painter George Klontzas  

An important triptych by the Cretan Icon Painter George Klontzas

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