Closed in Monday
Neither a summary of the icon painting, nor any anthological exhibition could be imagined without the presence of icons from the Ohrid collection. They are a remarkable and an indivisible segment of the rich cultural and historical heritage of Ohrid, the city where the Slavic literacy and culture have sprouted. Created in the workshops of Constantinople and Salonika, or in the local workshops in Ohrid, these icons have been an inseparable part of the iconostasis in the churches they have been ordered and painted for. Now, they are assembled in one place, the Icon Gallery in Ohrid, and are accessible to the senses of the numerous experts and passers-by.
The different epochs have left their chronological and stylistic notes upon the icon painting in Ohrid that can be followed through a period of almost a millennium, from the middle of 11th till the end of 19th century.
The earliest known Ohrid icons are just a pendant of the wall painting from the same time and their main characteristics are the grandiosity, stiffness of the expression and strange calm, glowing from the faces of the saints. "St. Basil the Great and St. Nicholas" and "The Forty Martyrs of Sebaste" are the two oldest icons belonging to this stylistic period.
The icons "Virgin Mary" and "Archangel Gabriel" from the Annunciation are dated at the beginning of 12th century, when the artistic expression was more refined and the graphicism in the treatment of the figures was more accented.
One of the rare icons, where we meet an inscription about its origin, is the icon "Jesus Christ" from 1262/63, ordered by the Ohrid archbishop Constantine Cavasilas for some of the Ohrid churches.
The problems of light and form that occupied the painters from the second half of 13th century is very successfully solved on the processional icon "Mother of God Hodigitria" with "The Crucifixion" on the other side.
However, the real masterpieces were created in the period of the so-called "Paleologian Rennaissance", a period of changes that the new time has intruded. The end of thirteenth or the beginning of the fourteenth century is the period when "Evangelis Matthew" was created, an expressive and firmly modelled figure, one of the best accomplishments of the Byzantine icon painting in whole.
At the beginning of the 14th century the feast-day icons "Baptism of Christ", "Descent into Limbo", "Incredulity of Thomas", have also been painted for the iconostasis of the recently decorated church Mother of God Peribleptos (1295), as well as the temple icon with the same name.
An unknown painter has achieved a real perfection in the painting of the processional icons "Mother of God Psychosostria" with "The Annunciation" on the other side and "Jesus Christ Psychosostis" with "The Crucifixion".
The large number of smaller churches that begun to sprout by the middle of the 14th century prescribed the need of producing numerous icons that fully occupied the painters from the local workshops. The cult of the Slavic educators SS Clement and Naum of Ohrid was very strong and they have been painted on a great number of icons in an iconographic shape that was common for that period.
But, one work in particular, the processional icon with the presentation of these two saints, is distinguished by its artistic qualities. Refined drawing, soft modelling and harmonious colouring are the distinctions of the painter of this icon and are very close to the style of John Theorianos, who has painted the frescoes on the second floor of the narthex of the church St.Sophia.
After the year 1395, when Ohrid fells under the Turkish rule, the artistic activity gradually but certainly dies out. In the 16th and 17th centuries some efforts for its reviving have been made but without a bigger success and without hopes for even a pale imitation of the artistic achievements from the previous times. Even in 18th, and especially in the 19th century, the icon painting, according to the outstanding works of the icon painters Constantine Hieromonk, Michael and Daniel from Samarina and particularly Dicho, succeeded to obtain again some reputation but not nearly as close as the ones from the past.