Η εικονογράφηση της σκηνής του Μαινόμενου Μονοκέρωτος από το μυθιστόρημα Βαρλαάμ και Ιωασάφ στην Ελλαδική μεταβυζαντινή τοιχογραφία (Journal article)

Σαμπανίκου, Εύη Δημ.

Among the several scenes depicted on the walls of the parecclesion (chapel) of the Three Hierarchs in the Barlaam monastery (Meteora-Thessaly, 1637), there is a scene that illustrates a parable from the «Barlaam and Ioasaph» romance, that of the «raging unicorn». The unicorn in this scene is depicted as a dragon (pi. 12). The mythical unicorn is the symbol of Death in the parable. In the Three Hierarchs’representation, the unicorn is a dragon with one com and that element creates an iconographical speciality. As the unicorn is the main subject of this article, we have to examine his iconographical origins, mainly in book illumination. The usual type of the unicorn from his first representations in Ancient Mesopotamia is that of a bull, a goat or a horse with one com. Through these types, the representations of the unicorn come down to the 9th cent., in the illustration of Physiologus and Cosmas Indicopleustes, where the goat type is maintained as well as the myth of the unicorn and the virgin. The myth, or just the animal, is later illustrated in psalter marginal illumination, where the unicorn is usually a goat. There is, however, a group of psalters, where not only the animal but the whole parable is depicted as an illustration for psalms (plates 6-8). The unicorn here is a goat too. The unicorn is also depicted in Octateuchs, among other (real or fantastic) animals, in the scene of Adam that gives the animals their names. The unicorn is always a goat (plan 1). S. der Nersessian has, moreover, located, a number of manuscripts that illustrate the whole romance itself. There are, 6 greek, 2 russian and 3 arabian, byzantine and post-byzantine manuscripts, where the unicorn is a goat or a horse (plates 1-5). The illustration of the romance is very rare in wall-painting and its representation is mainly restricted to this very scene of the parable (Vlth apologue). The Moldavian Neamj, is an exception; however, no unicorn scene is depicted there. In the greek region we only know three more representations, the first in the church of St. Demetrios in Thessaloniki (about 1493) (plan 2, pi. 9), the second in the church of St. John Prodromos in Kastoria (1727) (pi. 11) and the third in the parecclesion of St. John Theologos in Dionysiou monastery (1608) (pi. 10). The unicorn in the above mentioned wall-painting representations, is not depicted at all. There are only the other elements of the parable. According to all the above mentioned, no comparisons can be done between the other representations of the unicorn and that of the parecclesion of the Threee Hierarchs, as we don’t know the painters’ (John the priest and his children) origins. They obviously didn’t know the parable from an illuminated manuscript and they didn't even have an «anthibolon». A possible origin could have been the dragon of the Monastery, of St. Nicolas Anapaphsas (1527) in the scene of Adam that gives the animals their names (pi. 13). Theophanes’ dragon however is not obviously supposed to be a unicorn (pi. 14). Dragons are also depicted among the wall-painting representations of other monasteries of Meteora. The same dragon is also depicted in Adam’s representation in Dochiariou monastery (1568), as well as in the Last Judgement of the same monastery and that of the monastery of Lavra. We can, therefore, suppose, that the painters choose to depict the unicorn after Theophanes’ prototype, the dragon, that is, either Theophanes’ depiction of the unicorn or just their misunderstanding. We know after all, that, their choises are always after the Cretan Scool and Theophanes, no matter if they live and work in 1637. One must finally search for the reason —if there is one— of the depiction of the parable between the representations of Johnas and «Adelpheios’ vision for St. John Chrysostome». The relation with Johnas’ scene could be clearly iconographical (with Johnas’ monster). As for the relation with Chrysostome, this could be rather literary, in other words the parable could be connected with Chrysostome’s references to the unicorn. We have, up to this moment, located, one such reference. We can also explain the presence of the parable into the iconographical program of the parecclession, from a kind of «preference» (from the donors or the painter) to St. Chrysostome, as Chrysostome is depicted three times in the parecclesion (in the apse, in «Adelpheios vision» and in the «Koimesis» —Dormition— of the saint), while that doesn't happen with the other two Hierarchs.
Institution and School/Department of submitter: Πανεπιστήμιο Ιωαννίνων. Φιλοσοφική Σχολή. Τμήμα Ιστορίας και Αρχαιολογίας
Keywords: -
URI: https://olympias.lib.uoi.gr/jspui/handle/123456789/6135
http://dx.doi.org/10.26268/heal.uoi.9310
Publisher: Πανεπιστήμιο Ιωαννίνων. Φιλοσοφική Σχολή. Τμήμα Ιστορίας και Αρχαιολογίας
Appears in Collections:Τόμος 19 (1990)



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