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ly and meticulously drawn portrait features and the no- bility and beauty of the painted subject-matter attest to the value of the painting of this epoch, only known, in fact, in a small number of surviving works of art.
in the hardships that befell Gračanica and other mon- uments following the first attacks of the Turks, the origi- nal outer narthex with its entire fresco decoration was devastated, and subsequently, after its restoration, a great- er part of the frescos dating from a later time were de- stroyed as well. Several representations have survived in it, of which the depiction of the Second ecumenical Coun- cil and the illustration of the poem “in the grave bodily...“ are especially interesting in thematic terms. The Baptism in the southern portion of the east wall, however, is the most telling example of the character of the style: of a very complex iconographic pattern, it features the troubled and wide course of the jordan River cutting across the scene, and several episodes accompanying the event. Superbly painted and of glowing harmonies of colors, almost all the figures of the participants and the antique personifications have, unfortunately, lost their facial features, so that opin- ions concerning the exact date of their creation differ con- siderably. in all probability, they can be dated to the sec- ond quarter of the 16th century, during the time of the edu- cated and energetic Metropolitan of Gračanica Nikanor who took an active part in spiritual life, renovated the li- brary which had burned down, and even established a printing press in the monastery. The large icon of Christ the Merciful (139 x 269 cm) with the ancient of Days and the apostles, offers a more direct testimony to the paint- ing of this period, very poorly known in the Balkans. On the lower part of the frame, between the ancient sages and the prophets, the Metropolitan Nikanor commissioned his portrait, outstandingly painted in the proskynesis, with a poetically composed prayer written on a long scroll, and an angel offering him in Christ’s name the archbishop’s mytra in the act of investiture.
The icon of the Mother of God, of smaller dimensions with prophets holding scrolls and the objects of their vi- sions in their hands probably dates to the same period. Nowadays, the iconostasis of the church and its parek- klesia do not contain earlier works; neither does the trea- sury, which must have been very rich. However, several works created at a later date have survived, of which the most significant is an icon from 1607/8 depicting the life of St. Feuronia, who rarely appears on her own with a por- trait of Viktor, the Metropolitan of Novo Brdo (Gračanica) in that epoch.
The restoration of the Patriarchate of Peć stirred up the spiritual life in the state, having left a visible trace pri- marily in the large centers of ecclesiastical administra-
The art of Gračanica
tion. at that time, the character of the Gračanica exonar- thex was significantly altered by blocking up the space between the columns on its open sides, although with their light structure and the form of the vaults they had been excellently adapted to the plastic values of Milutin’s tem- ple. in the most recent conservation works it regained some of its former value, but all elements of its original appearance have not been established with certainty, nei- ther was it possible to remove all sections subsequently added because of the fresco-paintings these later addi- tions contain.
Newer murals which were completed in September 1570 exhibit a genuine profusion of themes and even icon- ographic rarities. Most of the paintings relate to the Moth- er of God to whom the church was dedicated: episodes from her life previously depicted in the church, scenes from the Old Testament which have the meaning of her prototype, and illustrations of the akathistos in which she had been venerated from the 14th century. Special stress was laid on the role of the Mother of God as the media- tor of mankind addressing the Son, on her own or with john the Forerunner in the developed Deisis with the apos- tles. in the last scene she is humbly approached by the founders, the Patriarch Makarije, the first head of the re- stored Serbian Church, with the Metropolitans antonije and Dionisije. in all probability, the latter archpriest passed away some time before the work on the fresco-painting was done, so his death was depicted here. Because of the moment at which Metropolitan Dionisije died and un- doubtedly because of his merits, in the depiction of his funeral dozens of spiritual and secular dignitaries have gathered in groups with their arrangement and expanse forming one of the most beautiful compositions of its kind. at the same time, with emphasis on the long tradition of the Serbian Church as confirmation of its autonomy, its heads were depicted in the lowest zone, starting from the first archbishop, St. Sava, to the last, Patriarch Makarije, whose image has been damaged.
in comparison with painting dating from King Milu- tin’s time, whose masters produced works which resonat- ed with tension even in their later years, always creative- ly modulating their visions, the decoration of the exonar- thex was duller and more schematic, evolving from extin- guished artistic centers which were being brought back to life, repeating the traditional features of earlier art. None- theless these paintings can be counted among the fine work by masters who had, before that, left their art in the earlier shrines of Peć and Studenica.
The Sacred Land: Art of Kosovo,
New York: The Monacelli Press 1997, pp. 63–80.

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