Engravings Collection

From Venice to Athos

The Path of Athonite Engravings

The relations between Venice and the Mount Athos were strong, not only because of the publishing activity, but also because Venice became the cradle of Athonite engraving. This was a beginning of a path, with the monasteries proceeding to commission autonomous prints, depicting general views and monasteries of the Mount Athos, as well as icons of saints. The monks brought the engraved plates together with the prints to the Mount Athos, from where the prints were also distributed, as a blessing (eulogia) to the pilgrims and on the alms-collecting mission of monks. Due to the deterioration of the copper plates over time and the overuse, the engraved lines became faint, so the plates required renovation. The craftsman who was renovating the plates, was often not the original creator and as a result, alterations were made.

The Athonite prints are light, restrained and sometimes rough and simplistic. In general, the subject is rendered with fewer lines and greater freedom. All in all, the Athonite works tend towards folk art, with quick execution and a lack of the third dimension, yet emanating a freshness and an inner power which comes from the splendid Byzantine tradition of religious painting. It is this story of Athonite print-making –that is, from its birth in the Venetian workshops, the renovation of the works on the Holy Mountain and, in the end, the pure Athonite works as ripe fruit of the overall development– which the present exhibition aspires to narrate.

Hieromonk Ioustinos