In the Tretyakov Gallery icon The Virgin is shown in the Orans attitude. She prays for mankind, interceding on their behalf before Christ who is shown hovering above the veil. Angels and saints turn to her from all sides, their glances and gestures suggesting a state of revelation. In the middle are two altars, with the figures of Fathers of the Church and angels visible behind them. Below, on both sides of the royal doors, stand Andrey Yurodivy (in a hair - shirt), St. Epiphanius, St. George and St. Demetrius of Thessalonica (on the right) and St. John the Forerunner with the apostles (on the left). The artist shows all these figures within the frame of three high arches hinting at three church naves. Above he has put a shining white temple surmounted with five cupolas. By these conventional devices he indicates to the beholder that the action unfolds in the altar part of a three - nave church which has five cupolas. The entire composition is built vertically and is subordinated to the flat surface of the panel, so beloved by the Novgorodians. Only the veil, extending over all and everything, and therefore encompassing the whole world, as it were, imparts a deep inner meaning to this composition. The Virgin is represented as a merciful intercessor, as a "veil" under which all who seek and suffer find salvation. In the icon we have not only a symmetry of individual figures but also - and this is much more important - a symmetry of their spiritual aspirations which shine through their seeming immobility. The Virgin is shown as the immobile center of the Universe. It is toward her that the symmetrical strokes of the angels' wings are directed from both sides. It is to her that all eyes are turned.
It is on her that all the principal architectural lines converge. This centrical composition is designed to express a centripetal movement toward universal joy. The invisible light which seems to emanate from the Virgin passes through the angelic and human spheres to break forth into diverse colours.
Fifteenth - century Novgorodian icon - painters did not favour complicated, involved, symbolic subjects, which became so current in later work. Their subjects are simple and expressive and do not require detailed commentary. The artists' thoughts are easily communicated to the beholder. There is a winning simplicity about their works. They simplify traditional iconographic subjects, discarding all super - fluous figures and leaving only the essentials. Their compositions are clearcut and easy to. grasp. They are free of the disjunction that detracted so much from sixteenth - century icons. Their subjects are not obscured by incidental, secondary episodes. This austerity of subject - matter and composition is, indeed, the distinctive feature of fifteenth - century Novgorodian icons. Novgorodians preferred the simplest iconographic types of traditional feast - day tier. This is why they willingly continued to paint rows of frontally - positioned saints. This is why they had such a liking for hagiographical icons which provided amazingly descriptive representations of scenes from the lives of saints.
If we compare a fifteenth - century Novgorodian icon with a contemporary Moscow panel, we shall immediately notice that the former is less aristocratic, more obviously archaic and more democratic in spirit. The Novgorodians preferred squat figures, they liked faces of clearly pronounced national type with forceful, sometimes even rather rugged features. There is often something piercing in the gaze of their saints. The positioning of saints in a line, with deliberately wide intervals between the figures, remains the favourite compositional device. The artists avoid forceful movement, and prefer static, widely - spaced compositions. Their background rocks are more massive and simpler than those in Moscow work. Their solidly - built architectural settings are less refined and less differentiated, their lines more generalized, their colours brighter and more impulsive. The Novgorodian icon is best recognized by its colouring in which fiery cinnabar is predominant. The Novgorodian palette consists of pure, unadulterated, intense colours used in bold juxtaposition. It is less harmonious than the Moscow palette and has fewer nuances to it, but it is virile and forceful. This unforgettable intensity of the colour scheme is probably the most vivid expression of Novgorodian taste.
Novgorodian Icon - Painting Pages
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