Monochromatic Frescos in the 14th-century Novgorod (Russia): Field Notes and Preliminary Conclusions
The Transfiguration Church on Illina Street is one of the oldest churches in Novgorod (rebuilt in 1374 and decorated in 1378). It is also the only church in which surviving frescos can be attributed with certainty to Theophanes the Greek (ca. 1340—ca. 1410). Theophanes, originally from Constantinople, is considered to be the most extraordinary iconographer of 14th-century Russia, emerging before Andrey Rublev and the myriad of notable icon painters of the Russian “renaissance” in the 15th and 16th centuries. Theophanes’ subdued—almost monochromatic—color palette has always been a curious phenomenon in Byzantine studies. The monochromatic style combined with his expressive lines creates an impression of unfinished-ness. It seems as if Theophanes brings his underpainting to the surface and exposes his own process of making and unmaking of a picture. Did Theophanes use the subdued colors intentionally? And if he did, what did he mean to convey with this limited color palette?
The Doug Adams Gallery is the primary exhibition space for the Center for the Arts & Religion at the Graduate Theological Union.