Поствизантийские исследования

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Studies on Orthodox Church art from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe

Dr. Waldemar Deluga,
Dr. Mirosław P. Kruk,

The genesis of this collection of articles on Orthodox Church art from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which we are presenting to the Reader, requires a few words of explanation.

The reasons behind this undertaking were manifold, but the most direct one was the 20th Byzantine Congress taking place in Paris in August of 2001. The papers presented at the Congress have already appeared in electronic form, on the website of the Vostochnoevropejskij Archeologicheskij Zhurnal, edited by Valery Bulgakov. (The Zhurnal, which started appearing in 1999, is Eastern Europe’s most popular Internet periodical, visited regularly by hundreds of readers from all over the world.) Plans are to bring out the papers finally in book form in 2002.

The articles presented here add to the discussion of the Byzantine cultural peripheries that took place at the congress, while focusing attention on the valuable, but still not fully recognized and weakly researched heritage of post-Byzantine culture in countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Synthetic studies giving an idea of the territorial expanse of Orthodox Church art have typically omitted the art of such regions as Walahia, Moldavia, Transylvania (that is, modern Romania) and the Ruthenian lands of the Old Polish Commonwealth, meaning today’s Byelarussia and Ukraine. Practically forgotten are examples of Post-Byzantine art from present-day Hungary and Slovakia. After all, it would seem that the culture of the region, according to the broad definition presented here, deserves systematic and discerning research. And indeed, studies have been ongoing for the past few decades in the countries of this region, but the results are poorly known beyond its borders, chiefly because of poor knowledge of the local languages within the world scholarly community. This has constituted a fundamental obstacle to the mutual recognition of this art, not least among the scholars themselves. Another key difficulty is the poor circulation of bibliographic data among the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

Furthermore, the presentation of these studies in one collection of articles reflects our deep belief that the Orthodox Church culture of the region is substantively related and largely homogeneous, undergoing similar transformations and depending on a network of close ties, often resulting from the history and accomplishments of specific individuals. This has found expression in art of both the so-called High and plebeian sort. Part of the reason for this is the geographical proximity of these countries, another part the closely and intricately interwoven history of the region, which has often dramatically linked and separated the nations living in this region and which has enforced migratory population movements on a scale difficult even to imagine today. Only after this aspect is taken into consideration, can one hope to understand the iconographic and stylistic closeness between many examples of Late medieval icon painting from the territories of Central Europe and the works of Serbian, Bulgarian and Greek art. Hence, the present publication is intended as a means for effecting a closeness between scholars from the above-mentioned countries and for demonstrating to others the richness of the culture that has been preserved there. Assuming opportune circumstances, the publication could initiate a new series grouping studies presented in the major European tongues, devoted to the late and post-Byzantine Orthodox Church art in these countries, propagating knowledge of this art in terms of specific topics, as well as different art forms.

The growing number of specialist publications is also conducive to a project for collecting bibliographic data, which would be helpful in understanding the state of research and new study directions. In 2000 alone several new books have been published in Poland: Icons and pictures by Barbara Dąb-Kalinowska, a new monograph of wall paintings from the Lubelska Chapel by Anna Różycka Bryzek, a monograph of an illuminated codex from Lawrow by Małgorzata Smorąg Różycka, Marian iconography in Ruthenian icon painting of the 15th and 16th centuries by Mirosław Kruk, Marian iconography in Ruthenian painting from the mid 17th century by Grażyna Kobrzeniecka-Sikorska, a monograph of the Orthodox Church prints and painting from the territory of the Old Polish Commonwealth in the context of iconographic transformations by Waldemar Deluga. Early 2001 saw the publication of a volume dedicated to Prof. Anna Różycka Bryzek, containing studies devoted to both ars graeca and ars latina. These books, which reflect the current state of research on post-Byzantine art, have helped to intensify studies, as richly demonstrated at the recent plenitude of scholarly conferences. Romanian and Ukrainian scholars are also making the effort to bring out small editions of acts from scholarly sessions and brief summaries, as well as monograph works. All these works are being published in the local languages, hence are basically inaccessible to the general body of Byzantinists. It should be noted that Romania is the only country where exceptionally interesting periodicals, unfortunately, devoted for the most part to Romanian art alone, have been published for many years in the major European languages; suffice it to mention Ars Transilvaniae, which next to Revue romaine d’histoire de l’art, contains the most articles on examples and topics of Orthodox Church art from Central Europe. One should also cite here the Revue des Etudes Sud-Est Europeenes.

By extending the invitation to scholars from the above mentioned countries to collaborate on future volumes, we hope to intensify the circulation of bibliographic data between our countries and to create a forum for mutual contacts, thanks to which the origins of this art as well as its outstanding accomplishments will become better known and recognized.

Another issue that we would like to submit to scholarly discussion on this forum are the ties between the monasteries on the Athos peninsula and those in Walachia, Moldavia, Ukraine and Ruthenia from the 15th to the late 18th centuries.