31 Jan 2022

Assoc. Prof. Alexander Kuymdzhiev’s latest monograph explores artworks by Athonite painters

Assoc. Prof. Alexander Kuymdzhiev’s monograph Artworks by Athonite Painters in Bulgaria (1750–1850) was published by the Institute of Art Studies, BAS.
The book explores the murals and icons within what is now Bulgaria made by Athonite painters, put in three groups:  the first includes works by the painters from the two Athonite ateliers founded by Nicephorus of Karpenision and Macarius of Galatista, representatives of the authentic Athonite style of the turn of the nineteenth century. Icons by painters who were not trained on Mt Athos, but worked there for decades such as, for example, Constantine and Athanasius of Korçë and Metrophanes of Chios, belong to the second group. The third group consists of artworks by a number of anonymous artists that, judging by the stylistic traits or historical information, should be associated with the Athonite art. Alongside them, records containing information about Bulgarian painters wrongly supposed to have been trained on Mt Athos are examined.
Particular attention is devoted to theoretical problems such as the meaning of the terms ‘Athonite style’ and ‘ Athonite painter’ which are critically analysed drawing on the existing literature. Analysed is also how these artworks found their way to the Bulgarian lands, highlighting the role of the taxidiotic institution, which should be deemed to have been the main intermediary in commissioning and delivering iconographic production into the Bulgarian lands. The role of certain persons is studied, for the vast majority of cases are private donors’ commissions of icons from Mt Athos.
The years given in the title denote the formal period, when the two Athonite ateliers were founded and developed. Taking a concrete approach, the period when they flourished should be said to be between 1773, to which the first known work of the two ateliers is dates, and 1821, when the Ottoman occupation of Mt Athos suspended the mass dissemination of local icons outside the Athonite Commonwealth. Still, before and after the said years, there are processes and facts that are part of the establishing, development and the final stage in the functioning of the two ateliers, for which reason the chronological framework should be extended between 1750 and 1850.
The book is Assoc. Prof. Alexander Kuymdzhiev’s thesis for awarding him the academic degree Doctor of Fine Arts in March 2021 by the Institute of Art Studies, BAS.