«Επιγραφική μαρτυρία για τους ζωγράφους του Πρωτάτου. Μια πρώτη παλαιογραφική προσέγγιση», ΔΧΑΕ 43 (2022), σ. 295-308.
Epigraphic Testimony about the Painters of the Protaton Church. A Preliminary Paleographic Approach.
During the course of conservation work on the wall paintings in the Protaton church on Mount At hos , an inscription was found that preserves five letters from the name "Eutychios" (Figs 1-3) and allows us to attribute the wall paintings of Protaton to the workshop of Michael Astrapas and Eutychios from Thessalonica. The contribution of one or both artists to the decoration of Protaton constitutes the aim of the present article, using as a key the palaeographic examination of the inscriptions of Protaton in comparison to those of the signatures of both painters on other ensembles subscribed by them and commissioned by the Serbian king Milutin (Figs 4-8).
The inscription preserving part of the name of Eutychios confirms that the Protaton church was decorated by the workshop of these two illustrious and productive artists although it is not possible to prove so far without a doubt the coexistence and cooperation of both Michael and Eutychios in Protaton.
According to the most prevailing theory, Michael held a dominant position among the members of the workshop , as his name shows up in most of the inscriptions found on Serbian monuments in comparison with the presence of Eutychios name.
However, recent publications argue that Eutychios might be in charge. Moreover, the fact that Michael used his patronymic and not his last name when he signed the ensembles on the monuments after 1310, as he did in Ohrid, should be perceived as a courtesy to his father-teacher.
In the case of the church in Karyes, the final letters of the name of Eutychios are not preserved. Therefore , three assumptions arise:
(a) The form of the name on the inscription was in nominative , ΕΥΤΥΧΙΟΣ; in this case, the participation of the painter in the pictorial programme is definite.
(b) The form of the name on the inscription was in genitive , EYTYXIOY, following the name of Michael as in most of the inscriptions on Serbian monuments. If this is the case , the participation of Eutychios is doubtful and Michael stands out as in charge.
(c) The form of the name on the inscription was in genitive case, EYTYXIOY, without a correlation with the name of Michael. There is a gap that precedes the name of Eutychios, in which there are no remains of any letters due to the corruption of this part of the wall and the substrate of the painting. If we presume that there used to exist a word in abbreviation (or not) that pointed Eutychios as the painter , then he turns out to be the master painter of Protaton, signing one of the most prominent paintings of the pictorial programme.
In any case , the fact that at least one of the paintings of Protaton is signed by one of the most important painters of the workshop enables the investigation of his participation in Protaton as well as in other ensembles that are attributed to the workshop, if we assume that the painter is also the scribe of the inscriptions.
A preliminary examination of the inscriptions deriving from the subscribed wall paintings of Michael and Eutychios brings out certain discriminations as well as striking resemblances. For instance, the inscriptions of Michael from Starn Nagoricino and Cucer, are pretty much alike with many paintings of Protaton. These elements speak in favour of the presence of Michael in the church of Mount Athos , where, in fact, held a crucial role.
Indeed, a thorough examination and identification of the different scribes in every single part of the pictorial programme is not possible in the present article let alone the so far published visual material is not sufficient enough for such a specific issue.
In conclusion, the inscription found on the wall painting of a military saint in Protaton is of great significance as it enables to attribute the decoration of the most important monument of Mount Athos to the well known workshop of Michael Astrapas and Eutychios. The preliminary palaeographic approach that has been attempted in the present article suggests that the Protaton church was decorated by Michael Astrapas. Michael seems to be the leading figure of the workshop which established a unique artistic idiom that stands out for the first time in Ohrid , where both Eutychios and Michael worked in equal terms.