Heptanese School (painting)

The Heptanese School of painting (Greek: Επτανησιακή Σχολή, literally: "The School of the Seven Islands", also known as the Ionian Islands' School) succeeded the Cretan School as the leading school of Greek post-Byzantine painting after Crete fell to the Ottomans in 1669. Like the Cretan school it combined Byzantine traditions with an increasing Western European artistic influence, and also saw the first significant depiction of secular subjects. The school was based in the Ionian Islands, which were not part of Ottoman Greece, from the middle of the 17th century until the middle of the 19th century.[1]

Assumption by Nikolaos Kantounis


Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens, Greece (8384486504)
Liturgy of St Spyridon by Panagiotis Doxaras, Byzantine museum, Athens

The Ionian Islands or Heptanese from the 17th to the 19th century were under successive Venetian, French and English occupation. The relative freedom that the Heptanese people enjoyed compared with Ottoman ruled mainland Greece, and the vicinity and the cultural relationships with neighbouring Italy, resulted in the creation of the first modern art movement in Greece. Another reason for the regional blossoming of arts is the migration of artists from mainland Greece and especially Crete to the Heptanese wanting to avoid the Ottoman rule. In particular Crete from the 15th century and the sack of Constantinople until the 17th century, when it was occupied by the Ottomans in 1669, was the main cultural centre of Greece, as it was ruled by the Venetians who allowed and encouraged artistic work (See: Cretan School). The main representatives of the fusion of Heptanese and Cretan Schools are Michael Damaskinos, Dimitrios Moschos and George Moschos, Manolis Tzanes and Konstantinos Tzanes and Stefanos Tsangarolas.[1]

Artistic styles

Art in the Heptanese shifted towards Western styles by the end of the 17th century with the gradual abandonment of strict Byzantine conventions and technique. Artists were now increasingly influenced by the Italian Baroque and Flemish painters rather than from their Byzantine heritage. Paintings began to have a three dimensional perspective and the compositions became more flexible using Western realism, departing from the traditional representations that embodied Byzantine spirituality. Such changes were also reflected on the technique of oil painting on canvas which replaced the Byzantine technique of egg tempera on panel. Subjects included secular portraits of the bourgeoisie, which became more common than religious scenes.[2] Bourgeois portraiture had an emblematic character which emphasised the class, profession and position of the individual in society. Frequently, however, these works also constitute penetrating psychological studies. The mature phase of the School of the Ionian Islands echoes the social developments as well as the changes that had occurred in the visual arts. Portraits began to lose their emblematic character. The early rigid poses were then succeeded by more relaxed attitudes (Kallyvokas, Iatras, Avlichos). Other subjects from the School of the Ionian Islands includes genre scenes, landscapes and still lifes.[2]

Representative artists

Birth of Virgin Mary by Doxaras.jpeg
Birth of Virgin Mary by Nikolaos Doxaras.
Matthew the Evangelist by Nikolaos Kantounis

The first examples of the new western influenced art can be seen at the roofs of churches which were known as ourania or sofita. A pioneer in this change was Panagiotis Doxaras (1662–1729), a Maniot who was taught Byzantine iconography from the Cretan Leo Moschos. Later Doxaras would travel to Venice to study painting and he would abandon Byzantine iconography to dedicate himself to western art. Having as a quide the works of Paolo Veronese he would later paint the roof of the church of Saint Spyridon in Corfu.[3] In 1726 he wrote the famous although controversial and much debated theoretical text On painting (Περί ζωγραφίας) in which he addressed the need for Greek art to depart from the Byzantine art towards western European art. His article even today is the subject of much discussion in Greece.[4]

Nikolaos Doxaras (1700/1706–1775), son of Panagiotis Doxaras continues the artistic legacy of his father. In 1753–1754 he painted the roof of Saint Faneromeni in Zate that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1953. Only a part of it has been saved and is exhibited today at the Zante Museum. Other contemporary artists of Doxaras were the Zante painter Ieronymos Stratis Plakotos and the Corfiot Stefanos Pazigetis.

The Zante priests and painters Nikolaos Koutouzis (1741–1813) and his pupil Nikolaos Kantounis (1767–1834) continued to paint according to western European standards and were particularly known for their realistic portraiture that emphasises the emotional background of the subject. Dionysios Kalivokas (1806–1887) and Dionysios Tsokos (1820–1862) are considered the last perhaps painters of the Heptanese School.[1]

Later Heptanese artists

Descent from the Cross by Kantounis
Descent from the Cross by Nikolaos Kantounis

The sculptor and painter Pavlos Prosalentis is the first neoclassical sculptor of modern Greece. Ioannis Kalosgouros, a sculptor, architect and painter produced the marble bust of Countess Helen Mocenigo, a portrait of Nikolaos Mantzaros and a portrait of Ioannis Romanos. Ioannis Chronis was another exponent of the prevailing neoclassical architectural trend. Some of his most important works are the Capodistria Mansion, the Ionian Bank, the former Ionian Parliament, the churches of St. Sophia and All Saints and the little church of Mandrakina. Dionysios Vegias was born in Cephalonia in 1819, considered to be one of the first to practice the art of engraving in Greece. Charalambos Pachis founded in 1870 a private school of painting in Corfu and is considered as the most important landscape painter of the Heptanese School along with Angelos Giallinas that specialised in watercolours. Another well-known painter is Georgios Samartzis, who was almost restricted to portraiture. Spyridon Skarrellis is best known for his watercolours and Markos Zavitsianos excelled in portrait painting and is considered an outstanding exponent of pictorial art in Greece.[5]

End of the Heptanese School period

Later Heptanese painters such as Nikolaos Xydias Typaldos (1826/1828–1909), Spyridon Prosalentis (1830–1895), Charalambos Pachis (1844–1891), and many others seem to distance themselves from the Heptanese school principles and are influenced by more modern Western European artistic movements. The liberation of Greece has transferred the Greek cultural centre from the Heptanese to Athens. Particularly important for that was the foundation in 1837 of the Athens Polytechnic that preceded the Athens School of Fine Arts. In the new school many artists were invited to teach such as the Italian Raffaello Ceccoli, the French Bonirote, the German Ludwig Thiersch and the Greeks Stephanos and Vikentios Lantsas. Among the first students of the school was Theodoros Vryzakis.


Αρχάγγελος Μιχαήλ, Παναγιώτης Δοξαράς

"Archangel Michael" by Panagiotis Doxaras


Virgin with Child by Charalambos Pachis

Πορτρέτο ανδρός

Portrait of a man by Nikolaos Xydias Typaldos

Chemist Nikopoulos by Nikolaos Kantounis

Chemist Nikopoulos by Nikolaos Kantounis

Portrait of an erudite by Nikolaos Koutouzis.jpeg

Portrait of an erudite by Nikolaos Koutouzis

Carnival in Kerkyra by Pachis

Carnival in Kerkyra by Charalambos Pachis


Dance in Corfu by Dionysios Vegias

See also


  1. ^ a b c archive.gr – Διαδρομές στην Νεοελληνική Τέχνη Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b New Page 1
  3. ^ Λάμπρου, Σπ.: Συμπληρωματικαί ειδήσεις περί του ζωγράφου Παναγιώτου Δοξαρά Ν. *Ελληνομνήμων ή Σύμμικτα Ελληνικά, τ. 1, 1843
  4. ^ Δοξαράς, Παναγιώτης: Περί ζωγραφίας, εκδ. Σπ. Π. Λάμπρου, εν Αθήναις, 1871; Αθήνα (Εκάτη 1996)
  5. ^ Culture: Fine Arts

External links

Angelos Giallinas

Angelos Giallinas (Greek: Άγγελος Γιαλλινάς; 5 March 1857, Corfu - 1939, Corfu) was a Greek landscape painter, known primarily for his watercolors. He was one of the last representatives of the Heptanese School of art.

Charalambos Pachis

Charalambos Pachis (Greek: Χαράλαμπος Παχής; 1844, Corfu – 1891, Corfu) was a Greek painter of the Heptanese school who specialized in landscapes and historical scenes.


Corfu or Kerkyra (; Greek: Κέρκυρα, romanized: Kérkyra, [ˈcercira]; Ancient Greek: Κόρκυρα, romanized: Kórkyra, [kórkyra]; Medieval Greek: Κορυφώ, romanized: Korifó; Latin: Corcyra) is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the margin of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality, which also includes the smaller islands of Ereikoussa, Mathraki and Othonoi. The municipality has an area of 610,9 km2, the island proper 592,8 km2. The principal city of the island and seat of the municipality (pop. 32,095) is also named Corfu. Corfu is home to the Ionian University.

The island is bound up with the history of Greece from the beginnings of Greek mythology. Its history is full of battles and conquests. Ancient Korkyra took part in the Battle of Sybota which was a catalyst for the Peloponnesian War, and, according to Thucydides, the largest naval battle between Greek city states until that time. Thucydides also reports that Korkyra was one of the three great naval powers of fifth century BC Greece, along with Athens and Corinth. Ruins of ancient Greek temples and other archaeological sites of the ancient city of Korkyra are found in Palaiopolis. Medieval castles punctuating strategic locations across the island are a legacy of struggles in the Middle Ages against invasions by pirates and the Ottomans. Two of these castles enclose its capital, which is the only city in Greece to be surrounded in such a way. As a result, Corfu's capital has been officially declared a Kastropolis ("castle city") by the Greek government. From medieval times and into the 17th century, the island, having successfully repulsed the Ottomans during several sieges, was recognised as a bulwark of the European States against the Ottoman Empire and became one of the most fortified places in Europe. The fortifications of the island were used by the Venetians to defend against Ottoman intrusion into the Adriatic. Corfu eventually fell under British rule following the Napoleonic Wars, and was eventually ceded to Greece by the British Empire along with the remaining islands of the United States of the Ionian Islands. Unification with modern Greece was concluded in 1864 under the Treaty of London. Corfu is the origin of the Ionian Academy, the first university of the modern Greek state, and the Nobile Teatro di San Giacomo di Corfù, the first Greek theatre and opera house of modern Greece. The first governor of independent Greece after the revolution of 1821, founder of the modern Greek state, and distinguished European diplomat Ioannis Kapodistrias was born in Corfu.

In 2007, the city's old town was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, following a recommendation by ICOMOS. The 1994 European Union summit was held in Corfu. The island is a very popular tourist destination.

Dionysios Tsokos

Dionysios Tsokos (Greek: Διονύσιος Τσόκος; c. 1814/1820 in Zakynthos – 1862 in Athens) was a Greek painter; one of the first to gain recognition in the post-Ottoman period. He is mostly known for portraits and historical scenes which combine elements from the Heptanese School with Italian styles.

Dionysios Vegias

Dionysios Vegias (Greek: Διονύσιος Βέγιας, 1810–84) was a Greek painter of the later Heptanese School of painting.

Gerasimos Pitsamanos

Gerasimos Pitsamanos or Pitzamanos (Greek: Γεράσιμος Πιτσαμάνος/Πιτζαμάνος; 6 March 1787, Argostoli - 5 December 1825, Corfu) was a Greek architect and portrait painter. Most of his known works are watercolors.

Nikolaos Doxaras

Nikolaos Doxaras (Greek: Νικόλαος Δοξαράς; 1706/10 in Kalamata – 2 March 1775 in Zakynthos) was a Greek painter of the Heptanese School, born in the Ionian islands.

Nikolaos Kantounis

Nikolaos Kantounis (Greek: Νικόλαος Καντούνης; 1767, Zakynthos – 1834, Zakynthos) was a Greek painter; he was one of the most important representatives of the Heptanese School.

Panagiotis Doxaras

Panagiotis Doxaras (Greek: Παναγιώτης Δοξαράς) (1662–1729) was a Greek painter who founded the Heptanese School of Greek art.

Spyridon Prosalentis

Spyridon Prosalentis (Greek: Σπυρίδων Προσαλέντης; Corfu, 1830 – Athens, 1895) was a Greek portrait painter of the Heptanese School. His first name is sometimes seen as Spyros.

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