Theophanes the Greek

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Theophanes the Greek


Born circa 1340; died after 1405. Painter who worked in Byzantium and Old Rus’.

Theophanes the Greek painted frescoes, icons, and miniatures. He did a number of paintings in churches in Constantinople, Galata, Chalcedon, and Kaffa (Feodosiia). He painted murals in several churches in Rus’, including the Spas na II’ine Church in Novgorod (1378) and three churches in the Moscow Kremlin: the Rozhdestva Bogomateri Church (1395, with Simeon Chernyi), the Arkhangel’skii Cathedral (1399, with Simeon Chernyi), and the Blagoveshchenskii Cathedral (1405, with Andrei Rublev and Prokhor of Gorodets). He also worked in Serpukhov and Nizhny Novgorod, and possibly in Kolomna and Pereslavl’-Zalesskii.

Individual works in the Blagoveshchenskii Cathedral attributed to Theophanes include the main icons of the Deesis register (The Savior, The Virgin, and John the Baptist), as well as The Archangel Gabriel, The Apostle Paul, and St. John Chrysostom, which were executed with helpers. Traces of corrections made by Theophanes have been preserved on the icons The Archangel Michael and Vasilii the Great, also on the Deesis register. Theophanes also did sketches and some complete drawings for the icons of the festivals register in the same cathedral.

Several other major icons have been attributed to Theophanes’ workshop and, by a number of scholars, to Theophanes himself. These include The Don Virgin (with The Assumption on the reverse side; 1380 to 1392) and the Pereslavl’-Zalesskii works The Quadripartite Icon and The Transfiguration, all three of which are housed in the Tret’iakov Gallery. Also of note are the initials of the Koshka Gospel (c. 1392; V. I. Lenin Library of the USSR, Moscow).

Theophanes the Greek expressed deep pathos in his human figures by means of bold composition, a striking palette, and original, dynamic brushwork. He combined these qualities with skillful rendering of form and clear draftsmanship. Theophanes and his works were held in high esteem in Rus’, where he was called the philosopher. The workshop he founded in Moscow stimulated local painters, who, however, developed a style distinct from his.


Lazarev, V. N. Feofan Grek i ego shkola. Moscow, 1961.
Goleizovskii, N. K. “Zametki o tvorchestve Feofana Greka.” In the collection Vizantiiskii vremennik, vol. 24. Moscow, 1964.
Goleizovskii, N. K. “Epifanii Premudryi o freskakh Feofana Greka v Moskve.” Ibid., vol. 35. Moscow, 1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
This parallels the shift in icon painting from the work of Theophanes the Greek to that of Andrei Rublev at the same time.