|Abstract (english)|| |
The dissertation investigates wall paintings, icons, and miniatures of priest Strahinja from Budimlje (present-day Berane, Montenegro), a productive and versatile post-Byzantine master, well-versed in theology, of modest artistic training, yet highly esteemed and sought- after on the territories of the Patriarchate of Peć during the Ottoman rule. Although priest Strahinja has been a subject of scholarly research, this dissertation presents the first attempt at encompassing his entire artistic oeuvre in a monographic and critical manner. Previously, some of the issues and dilemmas, such as the contention whether priest Strahinja held favorable views of the church union, remained completely unresolved. Furthermore, certain themes and atypical iconographic motifs have not been sufficiently clarified, nor were some of the stylistic features sufficiently explained. Among those is the influence of artists from Nikoljac and Morača on his painting and the impact of his high-level theological learning upon his entire work. This dissertation considers all pending questions and examines all programmatic, iconographic, and stylistic distinctive traits in the rich oeuvre of Strahinja; it makes comparisons with other artistic phenomena relevant for the understanding of Strahinja's painting, the artistic production of the time, and cultural life in the Balkans during the 16th and 17th century Ottoman rule. The works of this highly productive master were made in the period between 1591 and 1621/2 which means we can follow his artistic development during those thirty-some years. Three other churches should be added to his recognized body of work: Dragovoljići, Kaludra, and Majstorovina. Following the complete analysis of the entire program, as well as comprehensive iconographic and stylistic analysis, it is concluded that the wall painting in the village of Dragovoljići, in the vicinity of Nikšić, is the work of priest Strahinja made at the beginning of his independent artistic career, more precisely, in the 1590s. Also, in the church of Dragovoljići, the scene of Saint Marina slaying the devil with a hammer is recognized, that previous researchers of the fresco-painting in Dragovoljići, most likely on account of its deterioration, were not able to identify. Strahinja worked constantly and was engaged in three important monasteries of the time: the Holy Trinity in Plevlja, Piva, and Morača. By examining his entire painterly work, it can be deduced that certain programmatic and iconographic peculiarities testify to the high level of theological learning of priest Strahinja. Hence, in almost all churches, the choice of themes is well-conceived, regardless of whether he was painting images requested by the patrons or independently devising his own solutions for the given iconographic program. In that sense, we can mention depictions in the Holy Trinity, such as the Nemanjić family procession, also the rarely depicted saints, John of Rila, Prohor of Pčinja, Joachim of Osogovo (Sarandapor), another seldomly depicted saint, Cyril the Philosopher, who is also depicted in Ozren, an extensive cycle of Christ's Passion, representation of Vo grobe plotski (In the sepulcher with his body), that he also painted in Morača, wherein thematic relation with liturgical rite can best be perceived. Moreover, he paints an extensive cycle of Life of Saint Nicholas in Podvrh, and in the prothesis of Morača with his choice of apostles, bishops, and other saints, along with Queen Helen of Anjou and Saint Stephen Štiljanović in Gradište, he makes evident that he knew how to adapt the program to the needs of the patron. By carrying out a thematic analysis of the prothesis of Morača and the church of Saint Nicholas in Gradište, observations on Strahinja's position on the church union are formulated. Strahinja was employed in both Morača and Gradište, thus by the opponents of the church union and those who looked upon it favorably. Considering that Strahinja managed to be accepted by both sides, his attitude toward that matter cannot be fully determined. The only thing we know for certain is that he was employed by both opponents and supporters of the church alliance. A thematic analysis has shown that his works are programmatically very close to the painters of the Morača workshop where he was most likely trained; however, priest Strahinja surpasses them in many regards because certain depictions, such as those of Queen Helen of Anjou and Saint Stephen Štiljanović, we encounter only in his work. Within the purview of thematic considerations, depictions of King Uroš I and Queen Helen of Anjou from the church of Saint Nicholas in Gradište are also considered. The identities of these figures were not determined because it was possible to assume that it was the wife of Emperor Dušan, also by the name of Jelena, who was represented together with her son, also named Uroš. Following an analysis of historical and artistic conditions present in the period of making of the figures in question, as well as in the period in which Queen Helen was active, it is concluded that in the church of Saint Nicholas in Gradište it is King Uroš I and his wife Queen Helen of Anjou that are portrayed. In accordance with everything aforesaid, it is concluded that priest Strahinja innovatively assembles programmatic units and brings forth especially interesting iconographic solutions. Programmatic solutions in the work of priest Strahinhja are certainly of interest, but the iconography is the area in which Strahinja reaches his creative peak. In that regard, we can mention depictions such as inverted symbols of the Evangelists from the Holy Trinity, Gospel from Stolni Biograd, the Holy Trinity - Paternity and Gospel of the Chief Shepherd from Ozren, St. Nicholas the Wonderworker - Saint Nicholas saving Saint Peter from the Saracen prison, and the Holy Trinity - Tricephalos from Podvrh, Vo grobe plotski (In the sepulcher with his body) and Wisdom has built a house for herself from Morača, and Saint Marina slaying a devil with a hammer from Gradište. These representations testify that priest Strahinja did not refrain from providing different iconographic solutions for certain compositions. Hence, these depictions could be considered his iconographic contribution produced on the territory of the restored Patriarchate of Peć. Frescoes of the Holy Trinity - Paternity, Gospel of the Chief Shepherd, and St. Nicholas the Wonderworker - Saint Nicholas saves Saint Peter from the Saracen prison, should be particularly noted. These representations are found only in the work of priest Strahinja in the aforementioned area in the 16th and 17th century. The church of Saint Nicholas in Pelinovo near Kotor is the only other place where the scene of Saint Nicholas saves Saint Peter from the Saracen prison is painted, albeit at the beginning of the 18th century. Also, it has been hitherto considered that in order to paint the Paternity, Strahinja must have been familiar with a Russian icon-painting prototype or a miniature. The miniature from the Parish register of the Holy Spirit fraternity from Trogir from 1428, the icon of the Mercy Seat from the church of the Assumption of the Virgin in Drniš, and encolpion from Hilandar with the inscription in Old Serbian language, all reveal that this does not have to be the case, and they undoubtedly provide a significant contribution to the elucidation of this complex matter. Furthermore, even though the cult of Saint Marina was vibrant, representations of this saint slaying a devil were not common on the territory of the Patriarchate of Peć. Despite that, previous researchers that analyzed wall paintings in Gradište and Dragovoljići did not deal with the issue of the rarity of the image. Saint Marina represented in this manner has not been noted either in the work of Nikoljac or Morača artists. All things considered, we are left with impression that Strahinja was traditional, yet, at the same time, a versatile artist constantly striving to improve himself and come up with novel iconographic solutions for certain themes. Thus, it could be said that he was a truly unique artistic phenomenon at the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century, for whom it is indeed hard to find a counterpart on the territory of the restored Patriarchate of Peć during the Ottoman rule. The painting workshop of Morača must have influenced his formation as an artist, and it was most likely there that he acquired basic artistic skills. Certain images, such as the figure of apostle Mark, point in that direction and indicate that the origin of Strahinja’s style must be sought within the bounds of the Morača painting workshop; therefore, future research should be directed toward a more thorough comparison of Strahinja’s painting with the painting of the said workshop. The Festive Menaion of Božidar Vuković, printed in Venice in 1538, and the Nikoljac painting workshop with the monastery of Saint Nicholas (also known by the name of Nikoljac) in Bijelo Polje had an equally substantial influence on his formation as an artist. Certain seldom painted representations, for example, the figure of Cyril the Philosopher, are also suggestive of this, as are certain iconographic peculiarities, such as the Evangelists with inverted symbols and Arma Christi/ Instrumenta Martiri hat can be observed on the wall paintings of Nikoljac and Morača masters. We can notice the same representations and iconographic peculiarities in the churches priest Strahinja painted. Also, some of the scenes Strahinja painted, such as the Nativity and Baptism of Christ, and the figures of apostles Peter and Paul, are very similar to illustrations in the Festive Menaion of Božidar Vuković. According to that, we conclude that priest Strahinja must have consulted it himself. Almost all of his works, with the exception of Ozren monastery in north-eastern Bosnia, are located on the territory of present-day Montenegro. Even though Strahinja was active in an area that was not large, compared to his contemporaries Georgije Mitrofanović and Jovan, certain programmatic and iconographic peculiarities already noted are found solely in the work of priest Strahinja. They resulted from his employment in cultural centers of the time, such as the Holy Trinity, Morača and Piva, and Ozren, where scriptorial activity was also vigorous. The extent of scriptorial activity in Ozren monastery has not been determined since materials are sparse and problem matter has not been sufficiently examined. Hence, this information can neither be ignored nor overestimated until this complex matter has been thoroughly investigated. Since he was employed by the monks of these monasteries, who were among the most educated people of the time, it is likely that from the outset of his independent career, priest Strahinja had a reputation of a theologically learned priest-artist. It must have been a good opportunity for Strahinja, himself a priest, to improve further his knowledge of theological themes in the company of monastics. Furthermore, the fact that Strahinja came from Polimlje cannot be ignored, where the Monastery of Nikoljac was an important cultural center of the region. This monastery that Strahinja could have had the chance to visit was certainly not a major cultural pivot like Peć, but it was certainly an important cultural center and a significant wellspring of scribes, as well as of artists originating from Polimlje and working in the Adriatic Littoral or artist coming from the Adriatic Littoral and working in Polimlje; hence it played a valuable part in the formation of artistic expression typical for a wider geographical area during the 16th and the first decades of the 17th century. Bearing in mind that the painting workshop active in the Adriatic Littoral originated from the Nikoljac monastery, it could be assumed that these local masters returned to Polimlje and visited Nikoljac, spending time there on a new engagement, bringing icon painting models and manuscripts with seldom painted representations, just as the artists coming from the Adriatic Littoral to work in the Polimlje could have done. Furthermore, in the well-preserved wall painting of the church of Saint Nicholas in Bijelo Polje, some atypical details are discerned. Highly unusual for an Orthodox milieu, the nude male figure of a murderer from the Last Judgment finds the only parallel in these regions in the sinopia by Dujam Vušković in the Cathedral of Split from the middle of the 15th century, late Gothic in its stylistic expression. An artist in some way connected with the Adriatic Littoral most likely painted this atypical image. The artist must have brought with him numerous prototypes of painted images, including the abovementioned representation that was in no way common for the environment in which he was creating. All of this considered, it was most likely in this manner that Strahinja came into contact with images atypical for the Orthodox environment in which he was active. Thus, Nikoljac painting workshop active in the Adriatic Littoral should be an object of future research, since that way we would be able to see the amount of influence it had on priest Strahinja, which certainly could not have been small. Thus, we would gain a more complete and clear understanding of certain images, such as the Gospel of Chief Shepherd and the remainder of his work. The area of Strahinja's activity was small compared to those of his contemporaries, Georgije Mitrofanović and Jovan. Although small in size, it seems that the entire area of the Lim valley was more open for outside influences than it seems based on the preserved works. New insights gained from the recent examinations of the Monastery of Saint Nicholas in Bijelo Polje lead us to that conclusion. Future research of the other churches of the Lim valley area should be able to indicate the amount of thematic and iconographic atypical features in their wall painting. Certain programmatic and iconographic peculiarities observable only in the work of priest Strahinja that transcend the boundaries of the Patriarchate of Peć reveal that he undoubtedly surpassed his teachers from the Morača painting group. The iconographic education of Strahinja also impacted the talented artist Jovan, who took over some of the iconographic peculiarities, such as the Evangelists with the inverted symbols, and continued to depict them. With that, master Jovan contributed to the spread of more complex iconographic solutions during his artistic life. Taking into account everything aforesaid, we can conclude that priest Strahinja was a versatile artist, of good theological instruction and learning, and even though of modest artistic training, still esteemed and sought-after, most likely because he occasionally strayed from the determined iconographic framework, and provided unusual and stylistically expressive solutions. The reason may be sought in historical circumstances of the time when the number of gifted artists was small, and patrons were glad to employ a painter such as Strahinja, in whom they recognized an artist of solid theological background, but also with specific pictorial or personal qualities. Regardless of his modest artistic training, his theological learning guaranteed iconographic accuracy faithful to the Byzantine tradition, which was certainly a priority for patrons. In addition, it can be presumed that Strahinja did not require large monetary compensation for his work, and since no records are claiming otherwise, it seems that he complied with the agreed deadlines. These must have been the reasons that contributed to his popularity with patrons from large and small monastic, as well as village communities, and made him one of the most productive post-Byzantine painters of the time of Ottoman rule on the territory of the restored Patriarchate of Peć. The fact that priest Strahinja from Budimlje is also the miniature-painter of the Gospel of Stolni Biograd and master responsible for the icons of the Morača iconostasis confirms that Post-Byzantine artists from the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century performed all kinds of painting assignments. Although wall paintings constitute the majority of Strahinja’s preserved works, the miniatures of Stolni Biograd and the Morača iconostasis (it is also possible that painter-priest from Budimlje painted some other icons and executed some other miniatures and wall paintings, that unfortunately, have not been preserved or discovered yet) confirm that masters of Post-Byzantine 16th and 17th century painting on the territories of the Patriarchate of Peć during the Ottoman rule, were not exclusive with their choice of painting techniques. Discovery of the Stolni Biograd miniatures, but also new insights made in this dissertation on the entire oeuvre of priest Strahinja, as well as new information gained during recent comprehensive explorations of the monastery of Saint Nicholas in Bijelo Polje, should serve as an incentive for art historians to deal with this period of no small complexity and dearth of material.