Ο Χριστός αίρων τον Σταυρόν : Μία ροδιακή εικόνα της εκλεκτικής τάσηςPart of : Δελτίον της Χριστιανικής Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας ; Vol.48, 2009, pages 215-224
Christ Carrying the Cross : A Rhodian Icon of the Eclectic Trend
A he Collection of the Rhodes Bishopric contains a portable icon with a rare depiction of Christ carrying the cross (Figs 1 and 2). Christ is shown in bust, facing right and holding, with both hands, an obliquely placed, large wooden cross rendered in perspective, which he supports on his left shoulder. He wears a purple, sleeved chiton adorned with a broad, gold-embroidered hem, and a dark-blue himation with dense folds; on his head is a crown of thorns. The iconographie scheme of Christ carrying the cross is usually a detail in the scene of the Helkomenos or the Road to Golgotha, as in the icon signed by Nikolaos Tzanfournaris at the end of the 15th century, now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and an Italo-Byzantine icon from the Catholic church of the Virgin at Pelendri on Cyprus (ca 1500). The scene is also incorporated as a minor episode in extensive depictions of the Passion cycle in triptychs by the famous Cretan painter Georgios Klontzas, in the highly complex icons by Theodoros Poulakis and Ilias Moskos, and in 18th-century icons on Zakynthos influenced by Western engravings. The model for the icon under examination, however, was not drawn from the established Byzantine iconography, in which the cross of martyrdom is carried by Simon, nor from Post-Byzantine art contemporary with it. The iconographie scheme of Christ in bust carrying the cross is to be found in the works of Italian painters of the Late Renaissance, such as Gian Francesco Maineri, Giovanni Maria Scupula, Marco Palmezzano, and Giovanni Bellini. It is thought to have become an established part of the repertoire of Italian art in the final decades of the 15th century, after a woodcut with this particular scene circulated in Milan. There are very few Post-Byzantine icons with this subject, and those that are preserved are dated no earlier than the 17th and 18th century. These icons are one of Italo-Cretan art dating from the 17th century, two 17th-century icons in Ravenna, an icon in the Georgios Tsakyroglou Collection from the 18th century, and two more 18th-century icons in the Greek Institute of Venice. The closest parallel for the Rhodes icon, in iconographie terms, is to be found in a portable icon in the Collection of the Bishopric of Kalymnos and Astypalaia, kept in the Panayia tou Kastrou on Leros (Fig. 3). The use of the rare iconographie type and the substantial similarities between the two icons, both in the stylistic approach and visual expression and in the manner in which the representation is adapted to the space available, not only suggest strongly that they had a common model, but also point to their attribution to the same workshop: both icons contain all the characteristics of the eclectic trend of Rhodian painting, as elucidated by Ilias Kollias. The Italian influence is evident in the perspective rendering of the cross and the realistic treatment of the grain of the wood, in Christ's blond hair with its spiral curls, in the melancholy expression exuded by the delicate features of his face, and in the way the fabric of the chiton is folded on the hem at the neck. The painters of both icons skilfully used the conventions of Western art and subjected a Westernising representation to their traditional artistic media: avoiding the mechanical copying of the model, they translated a Western painting in the idiom of Byzantine art. The icon of the Rhodes Bishopric probably copied a very good work of Western origins on the island and may be dated about 1500, while the Leros icon, which faithfully follows it, may be assigned to the early decades of the 16th century, certainly before 1522. Both works provide support for the existence of an autonomous art on Rhodes in the Hospitaller period, and of painting workshops that were in tune with contemporary artistic currents in the West and adopted new iconographie types in their efforts to respond to the market demands of a multinational, bourgeois clientele with refined tastes.