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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.87 Hanging lamp
late 17th c.
Silver parcel-gilt with glass-paste stones
Height 13.5 cm, maximum diameter 9 cm


The Original New Testament

This lamp, in the shape of a truncated cone, is made of four cast open-work panels joined by vertical solid strips decorated with glass-paste stones in hexagonal mounts. The top is encircled by an ornamental band of late-Gothic anthemia, and the bottom by a plain strip on which is engraved the following inscription: 'This lamp was dedicated to the Monastery of Chelandari by the Hieromonk Basil in the year seven thousand'. The perforated cast bottom is decorated with anthemia. Suspended from it by a small multi-facetted ring is a filigree cross, but this is a later addition. The lamp hangs from chains, fastened to three multi-facetted rings, which are also of later manufacture.

Figurative compositions decorate the cast-work panels, with degenerated arabesques of flowers and foliage filling the empty spaces. Represented on the first panel is the Crucifixion, with an identifying inscription in Slavonic. The second and the fourth, which are identical, represent a saint and a hierarch under broken trefoil arches supported on columns. Above, between the arches, is a two-headed eagle, and the whole is surmounted by a medallion with the Virgin in the type of the Vlachernitissa. Around the edge of this medallion is engraved, in Greek, a quotation of a megalynarion from the Lesser supplicatory canon 'Thou who above the heavens...'. The third panel displays St George killing the dragon.

The Protaton hanging lamp is one of a large group of works sharing similar features of iconography and technique, which were made in Serbia in the second half of the seventeenth century. Most of the works in this group are hanging lamps, and their style seems to reflect an earlier tradition. Of those which are inscribed, a few bear the name of the goldsmith Nessko Prolimlekovic of Pozarevac, some were made by Vuk of Beckerek (Zrenjanin), a well-known center of metalwork since the sixteenth century, while others are ascribed to Sarajevan workshops (Radojkovic 1966, pp. 135-6, figs. 161, 164, and pp. 109-10. Postnikova-Loseva 1971, figs. 29, 30, pp. 89-90. Sakota 1984, pp. 185-6). Some of those without identifying inscriptions may safely be ascribed to one or another of the above centers, while others, generally later works made of copper alloys, seem to be the products of different workshops, for this type of hanging lamp was still being produced, in a number of variations, in the nineteenth century (Sakota 1984, p. 186).

This lamp is very similar to one in the Decani Monastery, and two others in the Armoury in the Kremlin in Moscow. Of these, one bears the date 1666, while the other is signed by Father Sabbas, who is known to have been working in Beckerek in 1677 (Sakota 1984, p. 213, and fig. 105, p. 258. Postnikova-Loseva 1971, figs. 23-8, pp. 86-8). Moreover, engraved on the Moscow lamp is part of the date from the creation of the world (as it also appears on the Protaton lamp), but it is incomplete, with only the symbol for 'seven' and the word for 'thousands'. The work produced by Father Sabbas, which are not among the finest examples of their type, display weaknesses in both design and execution. The figures are difficult to identify, the inscriptions on the cast-metal sections are not clear, while most prominent on many examples are motifs of the 'saz leaf and rosette' type and rumi style arabesques. The popularity of this type of lamp, however, was both widespread and long-lived; the Decani Monastery has a fair number of representative pieces, in various iconographic variants, while single examples may be found in monasteries and museums in Serbia as well as in monasteries throughout the Orthodox world, such as the Monastery of St Catherine on Mount Sinai (Beckerek, 1672 and 1677), and the Meteorite Monastery of St Stephen (Sakota 1984, figs. 101-7, p. 258. Iconomaki-Papadopoulou 1980, fig. 63, p. 35). The Protaton hanging lamp, as the inscription mentions, was originally dedicated to the Monastery of Chelandari.

Bibliography: Unpublished.

Y. I.-P.
Index of exhibits of Protato
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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