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Athos Holy Mount

3.4 The Tree of Jesse(Panagion)
17th c.
Dionysiou Monastery
Drawing, black ink on paper, 71 x 23.5 cm


The Original New Testament

This is one of the largest anthivola known (From Byzantium to El Greco 1987, pp. 54-6, 198-9 and Supplement to the Catalogue. Vasilaki 1995, p. 43, with earlier bibliography on the anthivola published to date). It was discovered a few years ago by the monk Symeon of the Monastery of Dionysiou, folded into eight sections. It is worn round the edges, chiefly on the left and right sides. The design is in black ink on white paper backed with cloth for greater durability.

The subject of the drawing is the Tree of Jesse, in other words the generations of Jesus as given in Matthew (1:1-16), with the aim of emphasising the human nature of Christ and the doctrine of the Incarnation through the Mother of God (Taylor 1980-1, p. 143). Also shown are scenes from the Old and New Testaments, and along the bottom are the ancient Greek philosophers who in a sense foretold the coming of Christ. Most of the themes have been placed within the circles formed by the shoots that sprout from the main trunk.

The individual themes are arranged both horizontally and vertically. At the bottom, in the centre, lies the reclining figure of Jesse, of which the middle is missing, and above this are the figures of David, Solomon and four other Patriarchs, culminating in the Virgin and Christ at the top. At the same level as Jesse can be seen the figures of the ancient Greek philosophers Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles and others, and on the left the Sibyl and King Ozias. Higher up are scenes such as the Anointing of David and Gideon's fleece of wool and from the New Testament the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, the Crucifixion and others.

Similar works of paintings can be seen on Mount Athos in the refectory of the Great Lavra, the katholikon of the Monastery of Docheiariou and elsewhere (Millet 1927, pls. 151, 240, 263), from which the artist seems to have taken elements of this composition. Indeed, the Great Lavra wall-painting has many details in common with this drawing, for example the ancient Greeks at the bottom and the eight Patriarchs above the recumbent Jesse. In contrast to the two grisaille works (no. 3.1, 3.2), this sketch is hastily drawn, the physical proportions are not always correct, and the inscriptions are for the most part exhaustive, for example in the case of Sophocles, where the text is written outside the scroll 'there is a supreme God, simple in hypostasis, who has ordered both heaven and earth'. It is clearly the anthivolon that some seventeenth century painter would have had with him in order to design a major work. It quite possibly comes from the archive, lost today, of anthivola used by the artists who in the seventeenth century lived in the Monastery of Dionysiou and painted its refectory and chapels (Gabriel D. 1959, pp. 54, 121).

Bibliography: Unpublished.

Index of exhibits of Monastery of Dionysiou
17th century

The Authentic Greek New Testament Bilingual New Testament I

Icon of the Mother of God and New Testament Reader Promote Greek Learning
Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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