Theophanes painted the Transfiguration Church in a range of a few related intense colours. In their present state, his frescoes are almost monochrome, but they were quite different just before the war. They had then been cleared of a late coating of white, and had not yet been covered by the dense smoke residue from fires which the Nazis built in the church during the war (the dome was used by Nazi artillerymen as a watch - tower, and horizontal embrasures were carved in it). In those days their colouring was vivid and vigorous. Theophanes worked in short, sharp brushstrokes, using strong contrasts of light and shade, and generalizing his contours to the utmost. There is less external movement in the frescoes of the Transfiguration Church than in those of Volotovo or St. Theodore Stratelates's; but the figures express an enormous inner tension, and the faces reveal, by a strong play of feature, an infinite variety of emotional states. Theophanes's Fathers, Prophets, and Stylites are unrivalled as studies of character. The general impression of his frescoes is one of tremendous power and monumentality. At the same time, we can feel in them the tragic mood that coloured the outlook of contemporary Byzantine artists, conscious of the doom hanging over Constantinople, on which enemies were closing in on all sides. Compared with Andrei Rublev's painting of the same subject, breathing infinite gentleness and love of humanity, Theophanes the Greek's Old Testament Trinity, with its sombre Angels full of avenging power, evokes associations with the Last Judgement.
The murals of the Church of Our Saviour - in - Kovaliovo, a building destroyed in the last war, though part of the same dynamic and emotional trend, differed widely from the Transfiguration frescoes both in mood and execution. It is important to note that they were painted in the year 1380, when the great battle of the Kulikovo Field was fought and won, ushering in the period of Russia's gradual liberation from the Mongol - Tatar yoke. Ruined by fierce shelling in the years 1941 - 1943 , the Kovaliovo frescoes' most valuable portion has by now been reassembled from an infinite number of small fragments, and is again available for study. This work, which took several years of painstaking effort, was accomplished by the restorers Alexander and Valentina Grekov.
Their general character, as well as certain Serbianisms in the inscriptions, suggest that the Kovaliovo frescoes were the work of Serbian artists. Just as in Serbian fourteenth - century churches, their lower tier was painted with large figures of warriors standing like sentinels on watch: the fact that this was done in the very year of the Kulikovo victory makes it particularly meaningful. The drawing in the Kovaliovo frescoes is heavier than in the Transfiguration murals, and the colouring is somewhat lower in tone. Nevertheless, those who saw the Kovaliovo frescoes before the war, say that they produced a powerful impression. Like the paintings at Volotovo, St. Theodore Stratelates's, and Nereditsa, they were preserved over large continuous areas of wall space, which enabled the spectator to appreciate the rare skill with which they were designed to be viewed at long range and from different vantage points in the interior, a skill later almost entirely lost.