Along with this Byzantinizing trend in twelfth century Novgorodian easel - painting there existed another trend, in which local features prevailed decisively over the Byzantine features introduced into the country. This second trend, more original and democratic, was associated with the strengthening of the Veche system which had led to the curtailment of the power of the Prince. The merchants and the craftsmen, who were beginning to play an increasingly bigger role in the life of "Gospodin Velikiy Novgorod", became more and more conscious of their power. And their tastes were naturally bound to make themselves felt in art. It was in this way that another tendency gradually began to grow and spread in the art of Novgorod. It did not supersede the first but existed alongside with it. And in the end it won.
A typical example of this new and more original Novgorodian style of the twelfth century is to be seen in the icon of the Virgin of the Sign whose intercessionary powers, according to the legend, were invoked in the defence of Novgorod when the city was besieged by the Suzdalians in 1169. The reverse side of the icon (the obverse has been lost) contains a rather unusual composition: the Apostle Peter and Saint Natal'ya address a prayer to Christ. The figures are short, with large heads. The manner of painting is free and natural, reminiscent of the fresco technique. The face of St. Peter, with vigorous, dramatic highlights, indicates a softening of Byzantine austerity and the emergence of a new, psychological element, more emotional and intimate.
The painter of this icon, which came from the Dukhov Monastery and which was painted closer to the middle of the thirteenth century, was familiar with the art of the preceding century. The face of the saint retains much of the Byzantine austerity and grimness. But there are also many new features in the treatment of the face, which were later to be developed notably a greater stress on line and on ornamentation (especially in the rendering of the folds of skin and locks of hair). The lines look as if they were cut into the panel, as in etchings. The Byzantine master would never have rendered form so graphically. The colouring, too, with its contrasts of pale and vivid tints, is distinctly unByzantine. The partially cut off figures of saints at the margins (one can identify St. Symeon Stylites and Sts. Boris and Gleb) and the half - length figures in the upper part of the icon (Archangels Michael and Gabriel) and in the medallions (Athanasius, Anisim, Paul and Catherine) are painted in a much freer way and have a much gentler expression than St. Nicholas.