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Dionisy

DIONISY

(c. 14401508), renowned Russian painter.

Dionisy was the first Russian layman known to have been a religious painter and to have run a large, professional workshop. He was associated with the Moscow School and is considered the most outstanding icon painter of the later fifteenth century in Russia. His biographer, Joseph of Volotsk (14401515), called him "the best and most creative artist of all Russian lands." Certainly this can be considered true for his time period.

Dionisy's first recorded works were frescoes in the Church of St. Parfuntiev in the Borovsky Monastery, completed around 1470 when he was an assistant to the painter Mitrophanes. In 1481 the Archbishop Vassian of Rostov, a close friend of the Great Prince of Moscow Ivan III, asked Dionisy to paint icons for the iconostasis of the Cathedral of the Dormition, Russia's main shrine in the Moscow Kremlin. This cathedral had just been finished by Aristotle Fioravanti, a well-known architect and engineer from Bologna, Italy. In this task Dionisy was assisted by three coworkers: Pope Timothy, Yarete, and Kon. Some fragmentary frescoes in this cathedral are also attributed to Dionisy, painted prior to the icon commission.

In 1484 Paisi the Elder and Dionisy, with his sons Fyodor and Vladimir, painted icons for the Monastery of Volokolamsk. It is generally agreed that the greatest achievement of Dionisy is the group of frescoes in the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin at St. Ferapont Monastery on the White Lake. He signed and dated this work 15001502. He was assisted again by his two sons. The entire fresco program centers on the glorification of the

Virgin Mary. However, the usual Pantocrator (Christ enthroned, "Ruler of All") appears in the dome, but without the severity of earlier representations. In the apse the enthroned Virgin and Child are represented above the Liturgy of the Church Fathers. The nave walls have frescoes illustrating scenes from the Akathist Hymn praising the Virgin. Some unusual scenes of the life and miracles of Christ also appear (Parables of the Prodigal Son, Widow's Mite, and so forth). Dionisy apparently invented some compositions instead of copying traditional representations.

Stylistically he was very much indebted to the venerated Andrei Rublev who died in 1430. Characteristic of Dionisy's style is the "de-materialized bouyancy" (Hamilton) of his figures, which appear to be extremely attenuated. In addition, his figures have a certain transparency and delicacy that are distinctive to his approach.

Icon panels attributed to Dionisy include a large icon of St. Peter, the Moscow Metropolitan, St. Alexius, another Moscow Metropolitan, St. Cyril of Byelo-Ozersk, a Crucifixion icon, a Hodegetria icon, and an icon glorifying the Virgin Mary entitled "All Creation Rejoices in Thee." The Crucifixion icon especially characterizes his style. Christ's rhythmical, languid body with tiny head (proportions 1:12) dominates the composition while his followers, on a smaller scale, levitate below. A curious additionperhaps from western influenceare the depictions of the floating personified Church and Synagogue, each accompanied by an angel.

The influence of Dionisy is clearly evident in subsequent sixteenth-century Russian icons and frescoes as well as in manuscript illuminations.

See also: cathedral of the dormition; rublev, andrei; theophanes the greek

bibliography

Hamilton, George H. (1990). The Art and Architecture of Russia. London: Penguin Group.

Lazarev, Viktor. (1966). Old Russian Murals and Mosaics: From the Eleventh to the Sixteenth Century. London: Phaidon.

Simonov, Aleksandr Grigorevich. (1970). The Frescoes of St. Pherapont Monastery. Moscow: Iskusstvo Publishing House.

A. Dean McKenzie

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