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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.21 Frame revetment of an icon with St Chrysostom
late 13th-early 14th c.
Chelandari Monastery
Silver repousse work, 26.5 x 19 cm


The Original New Testament

The silver revetment covers only the frame of this nineteenth-century icon; but since it was originally made for another icon, we cannot be sure whether in its initial application it covered and some other areas of the earlier icon as well. The presence of a narrow braided band, a feature which was commonly used as a transition between the frame and the ground, lends weight to the view that the ground of the earlier icon may in fact have been covered.

The decoration of the frame revetment consists of fourteen, mostly square, compartments with figurative subjects, those on the long sides alternating with ornamental motifs which, in the bottom corners, have obviously been elongated (Grabar 1978, p. 55). The figurative themes, identified by inscriptions, depict the Dodekaorton, to which the Birth of the Virgin (upper right) and the Hetoimasia (lower left) have been added. The scenes represented in chronological sequence on the vertical sides (alternately left and right) are as follows: the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Presentation in the Temple, the Baptism, the Transfiguration, the Raising of Lazarus, the Entry into Jerusalem and the Crucifixion. Only figurative compartments decorate the horizontal sides: on the top, the Pentecost, the Ascension and the Birth of the Virgin, and on the bottom the Hetoimasia, the Koimesis and the Anastasis. Most of these scenes have relief inscriptions. The composition of the scenes is conventional, the most distinguishing feature being their relative iconographic austerity, which restricts the number of figures and eliminates all architectural and landscape features, giving the scenes simplicity and clarity. The decorative motif repeated in the alternate compartments consists of an intricate quatrefoil of interlacing tendrils whose palmetted ends form a symmetrical pair of leaves in the centre of each lobe. This motif is familiar from other late thirteenth-century revetments (Grabar 1975, nos. 17-18), which suggests that although the style and iconography of the scenes would justify an earlier dating, the work should be attributed to this period.

Bibliography: Kondakov 1902, fig. 75. Radojcic 1955 (1), fig. 48. Grabar 1975, no. 26, pp. 55-6.

K. L-T.
Index of exhibits of Monastery of Chelandari
13th century

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