Monday, February 14, 2011


Jesus Christ

Onufri was a 16th century Albanian painter best known for his Byzantine style icons. He also painted portraits, landscapes and churches.''  Onufri was born in the 16th century in central Albania. His birthday was probably June 12th, because this is the day of Saint Onuphrius, an ascetic hermit from early Christianity. He was born into a tumultuous epoch: the Osmans had conquered Albania after the death of Gjergj Kastrioti, called Skënderbeg, who had maintained Albania’s unity and independence during his lifetime. Now the Turkish rulers built castles, reorganized administration, converted forcibly a great part of the population to their Islamic religion and crushed Albanian rebellions. In this context, painting icons with Christian motives was also an act of Albanian resistance and affirmation.
Only few facts are known about Onufri’s life. Until 1547, he painted in Berat, 1547 in Berat and Kostur, 1555 in Shelcan near Elbasan, after 1554 in the village of Valsh. At that time he signed his works of art with the title „protopapa“, which proves that Onufri hold a high rank in Byzantian ecclesiastic hierarchy. He founded his own school of painting, which was continued by his son Nikolla, by Onufri Kiprioti and Konstandin Shpataraku.
At Onufri’s time, Byzantian sacral painting followed the relatively strict Paleolog Renaissance. Whereas he painted biblical and ecclesiastic motives according to the Byzantian canon, in his style Onufri freed himself from its all to strict patterns. He painted Albanian landscapes, Albanian towns and Albanian folk, peasants, shepherds and especially knights. Saint George, for example, seams one of the knights who fought the Turks under Skënderbeg.
  By his rather realistic style, he approaches European Renaissance. He was a master of portraits, capturing the inner life of his protagonists. He did not follow the rules of negative perspective, according to which far away objects seem bigger than those in the first plane. In Onufri’s works of art we find the beginning of landscape painting. Some of his icons remind us the genre paintings by Flemish masters.
Perhaps the most characteristic feature of Onufri’s pictures – not only icons, but also frescoes – is the so-called Onufrian red. This typically bright colour was also predominant in mediaeval Albanian costumes. Today the art of producing that Onufrian red is lost – a secret which Onufri has taken with him into the mystical world he once had painted a glimpse of. ''(1)

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