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Athos Holy Mount

Athonite Paper Icons
4.15 St John the Baptist
16th c.
Collection of Dionysiou Monastery
Woodcut block
34 x 25 x 2 cm
Carved on Mount Athos
Woodcarver: Unknown



The Original New Testament

St John the Baptist is shown frontally and full-length, with large wings, clothed in a goatskin and himation. In his left hand he holds a staff surmounted by a cross and a scroll with the inscription 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand' (Matthew 3:2). At the bottom of the icon can be seen the Baptist's head in a deep dish and a tree with an axe between its branches. At the top left and right of the saint's head is the inscription 'St John the Prodrome'.

The balanced and spare composition and sure draughtsmanship reveals the hand of an experienced craftsman.

This woodcut is closely associated with the Monastery of Dionysiou, where the wooden block is kept, as the monastery is dedicated to the Forerunner. It dates to the sixteenth century, a time of prolific artistic activity in the monastery, when the katholikon and the refectory were decorated with frescoes.

This work, together with the unpublished woodcuts from the Great Lavra (late 15th c.?) and Chelandari (16th c.), is one of the oldest surviving woodcuts on Mount Athos. Compared to the extant woodcuts of Sinai (1655 and later), the Athonite woodcuts are not only of superior quality but also older, a fact that pushes back the earliest production of Orthodox paper icons to the end of the fifteenth century.

Bibliography: Papastratou 1986, no. 269. Tavlakis 1996, p. 671.

Index of exhibits of Monastery of Dionysiou
16th century

The Authentic Greek New Testament Bilingual New Testament I

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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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