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Tsafouris Nikolaos - The Virgin and St.Francis of Assisi(c. 1490)
Tempera and leaf on panel, 60 x 52 cm
Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens
This icon (an image created as a focal point of religious veneration in the Orthodox Eastern faith) represents the Virgin as 'The Madre della Consolazione' and St Francis of Assisi whose presence on what is ostensibly a Greek icon is unusual, in that he was a saint of the Latin church, not the Orthodox. It can be accounted for, however, by the fact that this icon was made on the island of Crete. For four centuries after 1204, when the Byzantine Empire fell to western attack, Crete was ruled by the Venetians. This fostered a mixture of iconographical motifs, both western and eastern. This icon has been attributed to the hand of Nikolaos Tsafouris (d. 1501), an artist who was active in Crete. He signed several icons, and his name appears in Venetian documents.
In this period a distinctive school of Cretan icon painting had emerged, producing works of a hybrid character, in which Byzantine traditions were modified by Western influences brought to the island by Venetian prints and paintings. The young Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco) got his training in the workshop of a local icon painter in Crete.