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by Archaeology Newsroom

The painter loannis Kornaros and his school

loannis Kornaros was a Cretan painter who settled in Cyprus during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. He created many works in his own typical style and strongly influenced Cypriot hagiography, thus contributing to the termination of the post-Byzantine tradition of the island. The artist was born in 1745 on Crete, however, his exact birthplace, Sitia or Mylopotamos, is a matter of argument. The date of his birth is concluded from the historic inscription on the oldest known portable icon ascribed to him that is safely kept in the Akroteriani Monastery (Toplou) in Sitia district. The inscription gives as date of execution the year 1770 and mentions that Kornaros was twenty five years old when he painted this icon In 1775 or a little earlier the painter visited the St. Catherine’s Monastery on Sinai. Kornaros and Cyprus : Kornaros painted most of his works on Cyprus and all belong to the mature, late phase of his artistic activity. He came to the island when the Archbishop was Chrysanthos. His arrival can be placed between 1787 and 1789, however the exact date cannot be defined, since it depends on the date of his departure from Sinai, a matter which also remains uncertain, as well as on his probable sojourn in Alexandria where some of his works still exist. The influence of his style was so strong that it progressively prevailed throughout Cyprus, on the one hand creating a “school’ and on the other contributing to the replacement of the post-Byzantine tradition of painting. The great impact Kornaros’ style had on the religious art of the island was mainly due to the decay of post-Byzantine hagiography in eighteenth century Cyprus and to the inflow of Western artistic tendencies as a result of which the hagiographers, clergy and believers were searching and longing for something new and fresh, which they easily discovered in Kornaros’ painting. The “school” of Kornaros continued to exist and develop in the nineteenth century, sometimes pure, sometimes mixed with other tendencies and artistic currents. It was nol before the end of the century that a new realistic and powerful style completely replaced from Cyprus the hagiographic school of the immigrant artist.