AKOTANTOS, Angelos
(died before 1457)

The Virgin Cardiotissa

1400-50
Tempera and leaf on panel, 121 x 96,5 cm
Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens

In the years that preceded the Turkish conquest of Constantinople and the ultimate fall of the Byzantine Empire, the Byzantine state had been restricted to the areas around Thrace and the Morea. The difficult circumstances and the insecurity that reigned led the artists of the Capital to seek safer places and new markets. Crete, an island which had been under Venetian domination since 1210, and which was flourishing economically, was one such place. Archival sources mention at least six painters from Constantinople who lived and worked at Chandax (the medieval name for the present-day city of Herakleion in Crete) at the beginning of the 15th century; among them were John Apokaukos and Nicholas Philanthropenos. The wave of "artistic migration" which went on even after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks (1453), led to the spread of the art of the Capital to the island and was a contributing factor in the creation of a particular school of painting, known as the "Cretan School", which was to dominate the art scene of the post-Byzantine years.

Among the artists who lived and worked at Chandax during this period, worth mentioning is the painter Angelos. More than 15 icons found today on Crete, Naxos, Patmos, Zakynthos, and in museums and private collections, bear his signature - "cheir Angelou" (by the hand of Angelos) - or are attributed to him on the basis of their stylistic features. The great number of icons leads us to suppose that Angelos must have had an important workshop in Chandax. Additional information on the painter is provided by the Venetian archives. In them there is a will, dated 1436, signed by one Angelos Akotantos, who has been identified with the painter whose name appears on the icons.




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