of the classical heritage. At the same time, from the first centuries of Russian Christianity local artists put their own stamp on religious art. They created images of Russian saints and religious festivals, employed wood for building churches and local pigments for painting icons. The flattened Byzantine dome eventually developed into the distinctive Russian 'onion' cupola.7 Regional variations in religious art were intensified by political fragmentation. New schools of icon-painting arose, although the term 'school' can be used only in a loose, geographical sense, since in most cases it is impossible to put names to artists or masters of workshops.8
In Novgorod a number of striking local features developed. From the late thirteenth century many small singled-domed, four-piered churches, with sloping or trefoil gables, were commissioned by communities oftraders and urban districts, and dedicated to saints with local associations. The stuccoed facades were decorated with niches, windows and bands of brick, the interiors with fresco cycles. Among the best surviving examples are St Nicholas at Lipna (1293), St Theodore Stratelates (1361-62), and the Transfiguration on Il'in Street (1372).9 The icon-painters of Novgorod favoured simple forms harmoniously arranged, blocks of bright colour - reds, whites and golds were particularly vivid - and black outlines.10 One of the most famous examples is the late fifteenth-century icon of St George and the Dragon, in which the linked figures of saint, steed and dragon fill the picture space against a bright red background.11 St George was venerated in princely cults. Many princes bore the name Iurii or Georgii and Novgorod's oldest monastery was dedicated to him. In popular culture he was associated with the protection of cattle and agriculture and was invoked to ward off unclean spirits. His feast day on 26 November marked the end of the agricultural year. This icon of St George and others like it could communicate
7 See A. M. Lidov, 'Ierusalimskiikuvuklii. O proiskhozhdenii lukovichnykh glav', in Ikono-grafiia arkhitektury: sbornik nauchnykh trudov, ed. A. L. Batalov (Moscow: Akademiia khudozhestv 1990), 57-68.
8 For general introductions to Russian icon-painting, see M. V Alpatov, Early Russian icon painting (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1978); V N. Lazarev, Russian icon: from its origins to the sixteenth century, ed. G. I. Vzdornov (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1997).
9 See William C. Brumfield, A history of Russian architecture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 64-70.
10 See V Laurina (ed.), Novgorod icons, lith-ijth century (Oxford and Leningrad: Aurora, 1980).
11 For an illustration and discussion, including dating, see R. Grierson, Gates of mystery: the art of Holy Russia (Fort Worth, TX: InterCultura, ), 180-2.
Was this article helpful?