Δύο εικόνες του Αγγέλου και του Ανδρέα Ρίτζου στο Βυζαντινό ΜουσείοPart of : Δελτίον της Χριστιανικής Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας ; Vol.33, 1991, pages 105-118
Two Icons of Angelos and Andreas Ritzos in the Byzantine Museum of Athens
In 1988, the Byzantine Museum of Athens purchasedtwo well-known icons of exceptional artistic qualitywhose conservation is already underway in the Museum's workshops. These are works of the great 15th-century Cretan painters Angelos and Andreas Ritzos. Thisarticle makes a few comments intended to make thembetter known.I. St. John the Forerunner (T. 2639)This is one of the most beautiful icons executed by Angelos, whose dates are calculated by his possible identification with Angelos Akotantos (known from archivesources) and the style of his work, which date him to aperiod before the middle of the 15th century. This iconmay belong to the first period of Angelos' artistic maturity as a painter, as do the other three icons in theMuseum (the Kardiotissa, Presentation of the Virgin,and St. Theodore). John is depicted in a deesis pose, inconversation with Christ who blesses him. The metricepigramme on the scroll, related to the severed head onthe gold dish below, is similar to a Comnenian icon inthe monastery of Sinai, and a like epigramme in theHermeneia refers to the supplicating Forerunner in thedesert. An interesting aspect related to the scene's symbolism is the bird painted with natural precision at thebottom, which is recognisable as a turtle-dove. Its appearance in this scene clarifies the epigramme on thesame type of icon of the Forerunner in Sinai, dated to1612, and the work of a Cretan painter Jeremiah Palladas, where the bird is also represented: ΤΡΥΓΩΝ Η ΦΙAEPHMOC / Ο IEPOC B[A]ΠTICTHC KHPYΞ(AC) /METANOIAN K(AI) ΦΑΝΕΡΩ/CAC X(PICTO)N. The liking of John with the turtle-dove, so "at home in thedesert", must have been known to Angelos, and he evidently introduced the element into the composition, asone can see from the size, natural rendition and in particular the bird's notable position on the first plain ofthe scene as the "singing" symbol of the Baptist.II. IHS (T. 2638)The icon had been noted about fifty years ago by A.Xyngopoulos, who published it in 1957, but since thenit has been lost, having been bought in Athens in 1936by a prominent citizen. Its subject is the well-knownmonogramme IHS, the emblem of the reformer of theFranciscans, S. Bernardino da Siena (proclaimed aSaint in 1450). Within the letters are presented the Crucifixion and two scenes of the Resurrection, both in itsByzantine (Descent into Hades) and in its Westernform. The painted IHS monogramme is not well knownin Western art, neither is it encountered in post-Byzantine art; it may constitute an innovation of AndreasRitzos. As workshop investigations showed, the inscription on the band below which "supports" the letters,with the troparion of the Paracletic hymn and the signature of the painter to the right, has been retouched withgold letters over the original white letters during anolder restoration. Of the original inscription, the end ofthe troparion and the signature are missing, but tracesof it are preserved. A Greek rho (P) appears quite clearly in the older signature, which coincides with the firstGreek letter of the name Ritzos in the later inscription.Indeed, partial cleaning uncovered white paint over thecurve of the P, an indication that it had been repainted.This single piece of evidence is, of course, insufficient atthe moment to indicate that the older retouching copiedthe name of Andreas Ritzos from the remains of theoriginal signature. This trace, however, and the fact thatthe icon belongs chronologically to Ritzos' time (ca.1422-1492, with a mention of him as a painter in 1451),not to mention clear marks of his art therein, allow it tobe attributed to the distinguished Cretan painter. Anopposite view would give rise to obvious questions as tothe familiarity of the old restorer with the work of Andreas Ritzos and his acquaintance of the style of Ritzos'period. This wonderful Italo-Cretan icon was in allprobability destined for a monastery or church of theFranciscans in Crete, or for a person who had someconnection with the order. The basic concepts of thework intertwine and develop within the IHS monogramme, in the recognised scenes, and the troparion ofthe Paracletic hymn below. These concepts, the salvation of Adam and the race of man and by extension thesalvation of the soul of the icon's dedicator, all go tosuggest a rapprochement on matters of common interestamongst the Catholic and Orthodox population livingside by side in Crete.