Georgia Project Lecture Series

Maria Lidova:
‘Written on the tablets of the heart’: The Art of Icon Painting by a Georgian Monk at Sinai

Aesthetics, Art, and Architecture in the Caucasus Lecture Series
In cooperation with the George Chubinashvili National Research Centre for Georgian Art History and Heritage Preservation

This paper is dedicated to a group of six icons dated between the late 11th and early 12th century and preserved in St. Catherine’s monastery at Mt. Sinai. Although part of an incredibly rich and exceptional collection, these panel paintings stand out for a number of reasons. The four icons from the series represent a detailed calendar cycle gathering together numerous representations of saints venerated daily over the course of the liturgical year. They were originally placed at the center of a polyptych, flanked by an icon of the Last Judgement on the right side, and a second panel bearing representations of five miraculous icons of the Virgin and a narrative cycle dedicated to the Miracles and Passions of Christ on the left.

The overall iconographic program is sophisticated and unique, revealing a masterful and individualistic approach on the part of the painter. The identity of the artist is attested to in a series of inscriptions complementing the painted image and written in both Georgian and Greek. These inscriptions constitute crucial evidence for the identity and provenance of the painter, emphasizing his Georgian background. Furthermore, they also serve as an attestation of authorship and testimony to the use of artists’ signatures in Byzantine art. Studying this group of icons from a range of different perspectives sets the ground for discussion of art making in Byzantium and contributes to the exploration of cross-cultural connections, the movement of artists, and the transmission of visual patterns in the Middle Byzantine period.

Maria Lidova is an art historian working on Byzantine, late antique and Western Medieval art. She studied in Russia, Italy, and France and worked as a postdoctoral researcher on the ‘Empires of Faith’ project at the British Museum and junior research fellow at Oxford University. She has held fellowships at Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz and American Academy in Rome and was one of the curators of the ‘Imagining the Divine’ exhibition held at the Ashmolean Museum in 2017-2018. She is currently working on a research project dedicated to the study of little-known apocrypha in relation to early medieval transfer of relics and the cult of Eastern saints in Rome. Her recent publications include an overview of the nineteenth-century scholarship of late antique art in Russia “The Rise of Byzantine Art and Archaeology in Late Imperial Russia”, in Empires of Faith in Late Antiquity: Histories of Art and Religion from India to Ireland, ed. by Jaś Elsner (Cambridge, 2019); a paper on the twelfth-century Annunciation icon “Incarnation Revealed: The Ustyug Icon and Annunciation Imagery in Middle Byzantine Art”, in The Announcement. Annunciations and Beyond, ed. by H. Gründler, I. Sapir and A. Nova (Berlin, 2020); and calendar imagery in panel painting Martyrs, Prophets, Monks. Calendar Icons in the Collection of St Catherine’s Monastery at Sinai (11th-12th C.), in: IKON, 2021.


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22 June 2021, 3:00pm

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