TWO PODLINNIK COMPARISONS

If you are not interested in old icon painter’s manuals (podlinniki), prepare to be bored stiff.  This posting is a look at, and a comparison of, two descriptions of a saint in two Russian podlinniki.  It is likely to be of interest only to those who want to know more about painter’s manuals and to those who are learning to read them.

Here’s a quick comparison of entries from:

1: The late (1903) Bolshakov Podlinnik and
2: The 18th century Svodnuiy Podlinnik in the Filimonov redaction of 1874.

It is the first saint for the month of June:

Bolshakov:

Myesats Iiun’ imat’ dniy 30.
[The] month of June has days 30
“The month of June has 30 days.”

Svyatago muchenika Iustina filosofa, sredniy, rus, brada kozmina, plat’ okolo shei byel, riza lazor’ ispod kinovar’ z byelilom, rukoiu blagoslovlyaet, v lyevoy svitok.

“Of the holy martyr Justin [the] Philosopher; middle[-aged], [hair] rus, beard of Kosmas, scarf around neck white, robe blue, under cinnabar with white, hand blesses, in the left a scroll.”

It begins with Svyatago — “of the holy” — because this is the day of commemoration of Justin.  Podlinnik entries for saints (and old Church calendar entries) generally begin thus, with the “of” form.

Justin has brada kozmina — the beard of Kosmas/Cosmas — the popular unmercenary saint of the common icon pair Kosmas and Damian.  It simply means he is painted with a beard the same size and shape as Kosmas.

Rus as a hair color means that color typical of many Russians, which is dark blond-light brown.

The plat’ — “cloth” — generally meaning a scarf or shawl in the case of a male, depending on circumstances — is byel — “white.”  And the white scarf is okolo shei — “about [the] neck.”  If any of you have seen the translation of the Bolshakov Podlinnik that appeared some years back (1995) under the title An Icon Painter’s Notebook, you will notice that the translator of that book incorrectly read shei in this entry for Justin as “silk” rather than “neck,” and so made the line oddly read “… he has a cloth around of white silk” instead of the correct reading, “[the] scarf around [the] neck [is] white.”

You will recall that a riza is a robe in podlinnik usage, and in this entry it is lazor’, ispod kinovar z [s] byelilom — dark blue, under[-robe] cinnabar [red] with white.  The best lazor’ was made from powdered lapis lazuli, and of course kinovar is the red to reddish-orange made from powdered mercury sulphide.

When an entry just says “[his] hand blesses,” it means the right hand.  And then, as here, we are told what the left hand is holding — in this case a svitok — a scroll.

And here is the entry for Justin in the Svodnuiy Podlinnik:

You should be able to easily guess the meaning of the heading, even though spelling and form varies somewhat.  And you should be able to read the first four words — “Of the holy martyr Justin the Philosopher.”

Then it tells us:

bye v lyeto 5642
…”[he] was in the year 5642.

We can easily see that 5642 (written in Arabic instead of Cyrillic numerals here) is one of the old “from the Creation of the World” dates.  Russian Orthodox thought (and some still do) that the world was created in the year 5,508 before the birth of Jesus.  So to convert such a date as we find in the podlinnik to our modern dating system, we must subtract 5,508 from 5,642, which gives us the year 94 c.e. (Common Era).  Modern accounts of Justin’s life tend to say he was born circa 100 c.e, so the date here is not too far from that.

The podlinnik goes on to tell us:

podobiem rus

You already know that rus is the hair color — dark blond to light brown.
Podobiem refers here to Justin’s “likeness” (подобие/podobie).  We can understand it to mean he is “painted like this,” i.e. rus hair, etc.

It goes on to tell us:
vlasui s ushei kratki
hairs to [the] ears short

— meaning his hair is short, down to the ears.

So we know thus far that Justin’s hair is dark blond-light brown, and that it is short, down to his ears, instead of the long hair we find on some icon saints.

It agrees with the Bolshakov Podlinnik in telling us his

brada aki Kozmina
beard [is like] Kosmas…

and that

okolo shei plat’ byeloy
about [the] neck [is a] scarf white…
“about the neck is a white scarf…”

But it differs somewhat in saying that

v rukakh kniga
“in [the] hands [a] book”

You will recall that in the Bolshakov Podlinnik, he holds a scroll rather than a book.

The description finishes by telling us that Justin is dressed in a

riza lazorevaya, ispod svyetlokrasnaya.
“robe blue, under[-robe] bright-red.

Now if we look at old icons of Justin, we can sometimes find icons closely matching a podlinnik description, such as this 17th century example from a calendrical icon:

(Moscow Spiritual Academy)

We see the light brown hair down to his ears, and his beard is not too far beyond the range of “like Kosmas.”  He has a white scarf or shawl about his neck, and his outer robe is blue, while his under-robe is cinnabar red.  He holds a scroll rather than a book.

Compare that with this 19th century example:

(Uspenskiy Vrazhek, Moscow)

We can see some changes, such as  a cross held in the right hand instead of blessing, and a book instead of a scroll in the other hand.  We find also a the reversal of the garment colors, and the forms of the garments are more like the example given in the old Stroganov Podlinnik:

If we look further at old examples of Justin, we find even more variance from the two podlinnik descriptions.  Here, for example, is a 16th century image of Justin painted by Theophanes of Crete:

(Stavronikita Monastery, Athos)

The Greek inscription reads:
Ho Hagios Iustinos ho Philosophos
“[The] Holy Justin the Philosopher”

As you can see, there is no white scarf about the neck, no book or scroll in the left hand, and there is variation in the garments and their coloring, as well as a difference in the style of the hair.

What does all this tell us?  Well, we should learn from it that a description in a given podlinnik may not be a precisely accurate description of all icons of a saint from all periods and places.  One finds many variations.  Even in old Russian painter’s manuals, one often finds after a description of a saint the words, “but elsewhere it is written…”  —  and then a differing description is given.  So even the old podlinniks recognized that there were differences and disagreements as to how a given saint was to be painted.

 

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FINALLY, THE SVODNUIY PODLINNIK IS AVAILABLE!

Good news for podlinnikophiles — those of you interested in old Russian icon painting manuals.  In previous postings, I gave you links (free, of course) to the Stroganov, Bolshakov, and Perm Podlinniks (as well as a couple of others).

Today I am happy to add a link to the more detailed (yet still text only) icon painter’s manual titled the Сводный иконописный подлинник XVIII Века по списку Г. Филимонова — Svodnuiy ikonopisnuiy podlinnik XVIII Vyeka po spisky G. Filimonova — “The Combined Icon Painting Manual of the 18th Century in the Edition of G. Filimonov.”

This manual has long been very difficult to obtain.  Nonetheless, it was always my favorite among the main “text” painter’s manuals because it is generally the most detailed, and adds interesting touches such as the traditional dates of saints, etc.

Of course the downside is that it is not available in English.  But for those of you who have begun learning the basic Slavic vocabulary of podlinniki/painter’s manuals, it should give you much material for practice, study and use.

Here is the page beginning the month of December:


And here is the link to the whole manual:

https://azbyka.ru/otechnik/ikona/svodnyj-ikonopisnyj-podlinnik-18-po-spisku-g-filimonova/

To see the manual, just click on the pdf symbol/icon following these words on the page:

Читать в формате pdf

They mean “Read in the format pdf.”

ANOTHER SAINT WITH A BIRD

In 2014 the foundations of what is reputed to be a fourth-century basilica were found just offshore in Lake İznik at the site of what was ancient Nicaea, in Turkey.  Archeologists say the church was dedicated to a martyr named Neophytos.

In iconography and hagiography, he is referred to as Neophytos of Nicaea.  Though his “acts” — that is, the account of his life and miracles — are unreliable, he may have actually been a martyr of the early 300s c.e, from just before the legalization of Christianity under the Roman Emperor Constantine.  It is said that the basilica was built for his relics (that is, his remains) on the site of his martyrdom.

Neophytos — Неофит (Neophit) in Slavic — is not a common saint in icons, but there is one interesting thing about him.  His iconography depicts him with a dove, so one should not confuse him with St. Triphon (Trifon), who is also shown with a bird.

The Stroganov Podlinnik depicts him, but gives only “Holy Martyr Neofit” as identification, without any painting instructions:

The Bolshakov Podlinnik offers only  a bit more information under his day of commemoration — January 21 — beginning with the last word of the first line here:

I svyatago muchenika neofita, mlad aki dimitriy, rizui prostuiya.
And of Holy Martyr Neofit, youth like Dimitriy [Demetrios of Thessaloniki], robe simple [meaning the ordinary, basic garment] .

I mentioned that his “acts” are unreliable and highly fanciful.  They are interesting to read as an example of the extravagance of such pious tales.

Dmitriy Rostovskiy wrote that Neophytos was born at Nicea of parents name Theodoulos and Florence.  They had him baptized and raised as a Christian.

As a little boy, Neophytos is said to have daily brought his poor school friends home and to have given them his dinner, himself going without.  He had the custom of worshiping at the eastern gate of the city, where he traced a cross on the wall and venerated it.  His little friends, having eaten, found him praying there.  He struck a stone and water poured forth from it, so that his friends could drink and satisfy their thirst.  He made them promise not to tell anyone about it.

Florence, Neophytos’ mother, had a dream in which she saw her son striking a stone and bringing forth water to give his friends, as Moses had similarly struck a stone in the Old Testament.  She woke and prayed to the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to her about her son.  A brilliantly shining white dove descended from Heaven, sat on Neophytos’ bed, and spoke these words:  “I am sent from the Savior to keep your bed clean.”

Florence was so terrified by the experience that she fell down dead.  The news quickly got around, and lots of people gathered in the house.  Word was sent to the father Theodoulos, and he rushed home in tears.

Meeting him outside the house, Neophytos said:
Зачем ты скорбишь, отец? Не умерла мать моя, а крепко уснула.
“Why are you mourning, Father?  My mother did not die, but fell asleep.”

He brought him into the house, took his mother’s hand, and said:
Встань, мать моя; ты заснула крепко.
“Wake, my mother — you fell sound asleep.”
And his mother was raised from the dead.

Having been restored to life, Florence told her husband of her visions concerning Neophytos, and word quickly spread around, so that even “pagans” were converted to Christianity.

The dove kept coming to Neophytos’ bed and talking to him.  One day it said:
Выйди, Неофит, из дома отца твоего, и иди вслед за мною.
“Go forth, Neophytos, from your father’s house, and follow after me.”

The dove led him to a cave on Mount Olympos, and in the cave lived a lion.  Neophytos said to the lion, “Get out of here, and go find yourself another cave, because the Lord has commanded me to live here.”  The lion obediently left.

Neophytos lived in the cave, and was fed by an angel.  When his parents were about to die a year later, he went to the city, kissed them goodbye, and then sold the property, giving the money to the poor.  Then he returned to his cave, where he is said to have remained until the age of 15.

At this time Decius came to the city, and announced a day when all the inhabitants of the region were to offer sacrifice to the gods.  When this happened, angels brought Neophytus from his cave, and set him down in the middle of the Nicaeans.  There he began to berate Decius for the worship of the gods.

I won’t go into all the gory details used to ornament his martyrdom, but at one point Neophytos, according to the tale, was thrown into a furnace, where he remained cool and unharmed, like the “Three Hebrew Children” in the Old Testament story from the book of Daniel (Daniel 3).  And when the “pagans” came to open the furnace, the flames shot out of it and burned them, while Neophytus was untouched by the heat.  Seeing this, the others accused Neophytos of sorcery.

Then they decided to tie him to a post and set bears upon him.  But the bears would not harm him.  Then they got a very large, recently-captured lion, and released it to attack Neophytos.  But the lion just wept, and licked Neophytos’ feet.  It was the same lion Neophytos had sent out from his cave at Mount Olympos, and it would not harm him.  Neophytos told the lion to return to his cave, and the lion, roaring loudly, broke out the gates, walking among the terrified people of the city, and went back to his former home on the mountain without harming anyone, as Neophytos had commanded him.

Finally, a vicious man with a spear ran at Neophytos, piercing him through the chest, and the saint at last died, so it is said, on January 21 at the age of 15 and four months.

This far-fetched tale gives a very good idea of how various details were assembled to create these fictional “acts” or lives of saints such as Neophytos.  We have the childhood miracles, as in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas — in this case water from a stone, as was said of Moses in Numbers 20; we have the mother raised from the dead after having been said to be asleep, as done by Jesus with a girl in the New Testament (Matthew 9:24); we have the dove, as at Jesus’ baptism; the feeding by an angel, like Elijah in 1 Kings 19:5-8; there is a friendly lion, as in the hagiographic tales of Gerasim of the Jordan and of Jerome, as well as survival inside a fiery furnace, as in Daniel 3.  These were the days before novels, and such tales provided entertainment and religious instruction for the pious, who thought all the marvels related in them quite factual.

 

THE PERM OLD BELIEVER ICON PAINTING MANUAL

In a previous posting, I shared a link to online access to the Stroganov Icon Painter’s Manual.  Today I would like to share the link to another and quite interesting old podlinnik (painter’s manual) in the Stroganov Museum.

This manual is identified thus:

Лицевой иконописный подлинник 1829 г. из Пермской Успенской старообрядческой церкви
Litsevoy ikonopisnuiy podlinnik 1829 g[oda] iz Permskoy Uspenskoy staroobryadcheskoy tserkvi

Illustrated icon painting manual,  [of the] year 1829, from the Perm Dormition Old  Ritualist Church.

By “Old Ritualist” is of course meant that it is a church of the Old Believers, who continued the traditional stylized manner of painting long after the State Orthodox Church had adopted the more realistic Western European manner.

As I have told you before, it is important in the study of icons to learn the Church Slavic alphabet and to learn the basic Slavic vocabulary common to Russian icons and podlinniki/podlinniks.  You can see how helpful that is in reading this rather fascinating Perm icon painter’s manual.

Here is the image for September 1, the beginning of the old Church year.  This image is not included in the earlier Stroganov manual, through it is described verbally:

As you see, it represents the “Indiction” type, which indicates the beginning of the Church Year through an image of Jesus beginning his ministry by reading from the Book of Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth (see the earlier posting on this type at: https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/the-indiction-which-is-the-new-year/)

The writing on the page reads:

МЕСАЦЪ СЕНТЯБРЬ
Mesats  Sentyabr
MONTH [of ] SEPTEMBER

НАЧАЛО ИНДИКТОУ ЕЖЕ ЕСТЬ
Nachalo Indiktou ezhe est
BEGINNING [of the] INDICTION, WHICH IS

НОВОМОУ ЛЕТУ
Novomou Letou
[the] NEW YEAR

ИМАТ ДНIИ Л
Imat dni 30
Has    Days   30

In normal English,

“The Month of September:
The Beginning of the Indiction, which is the New Year.
[September] has 30 days.”

Here is the link to the main page for the Perm manual:

http://stroganovmuseum.ru/vokrug-stroganovykh/izdaniya/item/81-litsevoj-ikonopisnyj-podlinnik-1829-g

On it you will see two entries (you can click on these links here, if you wish):

Часть 1 (с. 1-104)

Часть 2 (c. 105-216)

Часть (Chast)  means “part,” so the first link is to Part 1, pages 1-104,  and the second link to Part 2, pages 105-216.  Most of the Part 2 illustrations are lightly drawn, but were never fully inked in.

You will also find an alternate entry point with a different format on this link:

https://eikon.piwigo.com/index?/category/548-1829_%D0%B3

At the beginning of the podlinnik is an incomplete alphabetical list giving a saint’s name and where he or she is to be found in the book, which is arranged by month and day of commemoration.  The word числа (chisla) at upper right means “number” (date).

To see how it works, we can look at the second entry on the first index page:

Avvakoum Prorok, Deka[br] B

Meaning,
Avvakoum [Habakkuk], Prophet, December 2

If we look at December 2nd, we find this (the page is for December 1 and 2):

It gives us first the saint for the first (A) day of December:
“Of the Holy Prophet Nahum”

Then come those for the Second (B) day:
“Of the Holy Martyr Ananias of Persia”
“Of the Holy Prophet Avvakum”
“Of Holy Philaret the Merciful”

Notice that the female saint second from right has her name entered last, in smaller letters:
“Of the Holy Martyr Myropia.”

If we look in the halos, there are notations helpful to the painter.  In the halo of the Prophet Nahum, we see the word седъ — syed — meaning “grey.”  So we know he is an older man with grey hair.  By contrast, in the halos of the Martyr Ananias and the Prophet Avvakum, we find the word млад — mlad — meaning “young/youth.”

On another page we find Ису́с Нави́н — Isus Navvin — Joshua, son of Nun — and in his halo and in that of the saint beside him — Feodor Yaroslav Vsevolodovich — we find the word русъ — rus –“Russian” — which means the hair of these saints is to be painted in that light brown to dark blond color common to many Russians.  But in this manual, the colors of the garments are not indicated as they are in the Stroganov podlinnik.

By the way, you may notice that Joshua in Slavic has the same name as Jesus — Isus, as is also the case in the Greek Bible.  The Old Testament Jesus — that is, Joshua — is distinguished by the addition of “Navvin” in Slavic and του Ναυή — tou Naui — “of Nun” in Greek.

Here is the page for December 3-4:

On it we see the Prophet Sophoniya (Zephaniah), “our Venerable Father Sabba Storozhevsky Zvenigorodskiy,” “Holy Martyr Theodora,” “Holy Great Martyr Barbara,” “our Venerable Father John of Damascus,” and so on.  But what I really want you to notice is the entry in red at the bottom of the page:

Д ТРОРУЧИЦЫ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ
4  [OF THE ] TROERUCHITSUI PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI
“4  THREE-HANDED MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD”

That notation means that December 4th is the day of Commemoration of the icon of Mary called the “Three-handed Most Holy Mother of God.”  In the standard Church calendar, its days are June 28th and July 12th, but here it is placed on the day of John of Damascus, who was associated traditionally with its origin “miracle.” This manual indicates the commemoration of days of supposed “miracle-working” Marian icons with these red entries, but it does not depict these Marian images.  For those the painter had to turn to other patterns outside this book.

I will end this little introduction to the Perm Old Believer podlinnik with this page from November 8, the Sobor Svyatago Arkhistratiga Mikhaila i Prochikh Bezplotnuikh Sil — “The Assembly of the Chief-commander Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers.”

If you are interested in old patterns, you may also wish to look at Nikodim Kondakov’s published collection of icon patterns (volume I is primarily “Jesus” patterns), which you can do at this site:

http://dlib.rsl.ru/viewer/01000869530#?page=1

On that site, click on the thumbnail pages at left to get the enlarged image on the main screen.  Be sure to look at the patterns from page 156 on.

Those of you who would like to see the 1903 “Bolshakov Podlinnik” online — more properly the Подлинник иконописный — Издание С.Т. Большакова. Под редакцией . А.И. Успенского  — the “Icon Painting Manual — publisher S(ergey) T(ikhonovich) Bolshakov, edited by A. I Uspenskiy” — will find it at the following site:

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=gri.ark:/13960/t2v449g6w;view=1up;seq=1

The Bolshakov Podlinnik is a kind of revised and expanded version of the old Stroganov Podlinnik, using more casual outline drawings taken largely from that earlier manual, and adding a descriptive text (Church Slavic) modified by reference to other old painter’s manuals.  Though the re-drawn illustrations are not artistic, they nonetheless do the job, and the text is very useful for those who wish to learn the vocabulary of the old painter’s manuals, giving verbal descriptions of the various saints and indicating the form and colors of hair and garments.

The descriptions by month begin here:

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=gri.ark:/13960/t2v449g6w;view=1up;seq=37

The illustrations begin here:

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=gri.ark:/13960/t2v449g6w;view=1up;seq=201

One of the sources consulted in the preparation of the Bolshakov manual was the Софийский Списокъ Подлинника Новгородской Редакции XVI Века  — Sophiyskiy Spisok Podlinnika Novgorodskoy Redakstsii XVI Veka — “The Sophia Copy of the Podlinnik, Novogorod Redaction of the 16th Century.”  You will find online access to that text-only podlinnik here:

http://dlib.rsl.ru/viewer/01007492474#?page=1

Enjoy!

A HANDWRITTEN PODLINNIK PAGE

In a previous posting (https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/podlinniki-the-manuals-of-icon-painting-and-how-to-read-them/) we looked at a printed podlinnik page. You will recall that a podlinnik, in icon painting, is a manual describing how persons in icons are to be painted. It told the color and forms of hair and beard, the kind and color of garments, as well as whether a hand was blessing, or held a scroll or some other object. So a podlinnik was a manual for constructing the form of a saint in an icon.

Originally, textual podlinniki (or “podlinniks,” if you like the informal anglicization) were manuscripts written out by hand and arranged according to the Church calendar, so one looked at the day when a particular saint was commemorated in the Russian Orthodox Church, and there one found the description of how to paint him or her.

Here is a podlinnik page with the beginning of the month of May. The larger writing at the top says, “The Month of May, having days 31.”

podjer.

Today we will look at the first entry in order to better understand how a podlinnik functioned.

The lines from first to beginning of the sixth, if we transliterate into the Roman alphabet, look like this:

S[vya]tago pr[o]r(o)ka Ieremii, sye(d) brada ioanna b[o]goslova, vlasui ilii pr(o)r[o]ka, riz[a} shizhgal
ra(z)byelna ispo(d) zelen’ v rukye svitok” a v ne(m) pisano: tako gl[ago]let g[o](spo)d”: n[e]bo i zemlya mimo idet”, a slovesa moya mimo nepreidut.”

“Of-the-holy Prophet Jeremiah, grey, beard of John Theologian, hair of Elijah the prophet, robe bright-yellow
whitened, under green, in hand scroll, and on it written: Thus says the Lord God, heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away.”

In the transliteration, I have place omitted letters in brackets [ ] and letters written above as superscription in parentheses ( ).

The meaning is this:

The prophet Jeremiah is to be painted with hair grey, with the beard of John the Theologian (the Evangelist), the hair on the head like that of Elijah the Prophet, his robe is painted bright yellow and lightened with white, the under-robe is painted green. A scroll is in his hand, and on it is written:
“Thus says the Lord God, heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away.”

The robe color given in this podlinnik as шижгал — “shizhgal” (a bright yellow made from buckthorn berries) is just a variant spelling of шишгиль, “shishgil’.” In the Bolshakov podlinnik, which has an entry much like this one, the color given for Jeremiah’s robe is instead “vokhra” (ochre) whitened and the under-robe is “lazor,” a dark blue. One often finds such disagreements in old painters’ manuals about the appropriate colors for a saint’s garments, as well as differences in what one painted on a particular saint’s scroll.

This entry for Jeremiah goes on to give an alternate scroll inscription, prefaced by

A indye pishet — “and elsewhere is written,” meaning that the writer of this podlinnik knows that in other manuals this alternate inscription is given for Jeremiah’s scroll:

G[o]s[po]di sila(m) sudi pravedno
“Lord of powers, judge righteously.”

The “powers” here are the heavenly hosts, the heavenly armies of angels.

So that is what a podlinnik is — description after description of the saints commemorated on every day of every month of the year. It is like a recipe book, with each description a recipe for painting a saint. Keep in mind that, as I said earlier, these old manuals often disagree on how saints are to be painted, and the painters themselves recognized that. Often one finds, for example, instructions such as that a saint is to be painted as an old man, however then comes the added comment “but elsewhere it is written” that he is to be painted as a young man. And of course, as already mentioned, one finds differences in the scroll inscriptions for the same saint, differences in colors, and even differences in the spelling of those colors.

PODLINNIKI: THE MANUALS OF ICON PAINTING AND HOW TO READ THEM

Seeing actual painter’s manuals is often something of a letdown for the student of icons, who may expect to find every saint, every festal day, every “wonderworking” icon of Mary, as well as every other icon type in existence depicted and described.  It is not going to happen.  The greater part of most podlinniki is taken up with rather dull and repetitive descriptions of hundreds of saints who differ little from one another in appearance, and descriptions of how they are to be painted.  A few major festal icons may be included, but for the descriptions of the vast majority of icons of Mary, or even of Jesus, etc. — one must look elsewhere.

Podlinniks (more accurately, podlinniki) can be divided into those that are predominantly illustrated — such as the Stroganov Podlinnik — and those that are non-illustrated descriptive text only, such as the “FilimonovPodlinnik.

The beginning student of icons should first learn both the Cyrillic and Greek alphabets, because a Russian podlinnik will be in Cyrillic letters, and the Greek examples of the equivalent — the hermineia — are written in Greek.  But don’t worry.  You do not have to learn the entire Russian or Greek language.  You just have to accumulate a useful, basic vocabulary of terms, and that will take you a long way, because painter’s manuals and icon inscriptions in general are VERY repetitive.  You will begin to see how repetitive just from the first couple of pages of the Stroganov Podlinnik, which I have shown here.

Those who want to read the Russian podlinniki in their originals will want to become familiar with the old names for pigments used in painting, because those are the colors described in the manuals.  Learning all these things is a gradual process, and one can go as quickly or as slowly as one wishes.  I have already posted an article on the icon painter’s palette — the old color names and their meanings — which you will find in the archives.

Here is the beginning page for September from the Stroganov Podlinnik, along with transliterations of its information.  Those who have been reading this site for a while will recall that the important icon for the beginning of September is the “Indiction” type, which represents the beginning of the Church year — yet it is not included in this podlinnik, which begins instead with the standard first saint for podlinniki, Simeon “Stolpnik,” meaning essentially Simeon “the pillar guy” — the saint who lived atop a pillar, often known by his Greek title Stylites, which means the same as “Stolpnik” in Russian.  There is more than one “pillar guy” icon saint, so that is why title inscriptions are very important.

Let’s take a look:

Beginning of September: Stroganov Podlinnik

You can see that there are four saints on this page, the first two under the letter “a,” the second two under what looks like a B, but it is actually the third letter of the Cyrillic alphabet, which is pronounced like a “v.”  But these letters are also numbers, so the “a” means day “1,” and the “B” means day “3.”  So right away we see that this podlinnik has omitted the saints for September 2nd.

Starting from the left, we can skip most of the first inscription because it tells us simply that it is the month of September, which has 30 days, with 12 hours in a day, 12 in a night.  So let’s get on to the important descriptions, which begin like this:

1.  Prepodobnuiy Simeon.  Syed.  Stolpnika

2.  Prepodobnaya Mar’fa riza dich bagor z belilom is[pod] sankir.

3.  Svyatuiy muchenik Mamant’ riza kinovar ispod’ lazor’

4.  Predpodobnago Ioanna Postnika Patriarkha Tsaryagrada rus’ 

It tells us that the left-hand image is that of “Prepodobnuiy” Simeon.  Prepodobnuiy is a title literally meaning “most like,” meaning “most like Christ,” but in icon inscriptions it means a person is a monk.  We are given a very brief description of how he is to be painted:  Syed — “Grey.”  That means his hair is grey.  Beyond that all it tells us is “Stolpnik,” meaning Simeon is a “pillar guy,” depicted atop a pillar.  So we know this Stolpnik is Simeon of the Pillar, Simeon Stylites, which means the same thing.

The next figure from the left, we are told, is “Prepodobnaya” Marfa.  Prepodobnaya is just the feminine form of Prepodobnuiy, so Prepodobnaya means the saint is a nun.  “Marfa” is just the Russian form of “Martha.”  In Russian the Greek “th” is usually replaced by an “f” sound, because Russian did not have a “th” sound.  It says of the nun Martha that she is painted “Riza dich.”  Riza is the generic term for a robe.  So we know that Martha’s robe is “dich,” which, if you read my posting on icon pigment colors, you will recall as a grey color, sometimes with a faint bluish tinge. It adds bagor –reddish purple — with byelila, — white — and that the ispod — the garment beneath — is sankir — the dark brownish color used in many ways in icons, including as the foundation color — the first-painted layer of tempera — for flesh and other objects.

The page skips September 2nd and goes to two saints for September 3rd,the first of which is  Svyatuiy muchenik Mamant’ riza kinovar ispod lazor.

“Svyatuiy” just means “holy” or “saint.”  So this is saint Mamant.  His riza — his robe — is kinovar — that bright red made of powdered cinnabar, mercury sulphide.  Ispod — the undergarment — is lazor — that brilliant, deep blue, the best of which was made of powdered lapis lazuli.

And next to Mamant is the commemoration of  Prepodobnago Ioanna Postnika Patriarkha Tsarya grada.  Rus’.  Prepodobnago is just another grammatical form of Prepodobnuiy.  It means this is the day “of the monk saint” Ioann Postnik, meaning Ioann the Faster ( fasting in the sense of abstaining from food, not in the sense of moving speedily).  He is Patriarkha Tsaryagrada — the Patriarch of the Tsar City, meaning Constantinople.  And finally, it tells us that Ioann is “rus,” which refers to his hair color, just as “syed” referred to the hair color of Simeon Stolpnik.  Rus’ means literally “Russian,” meaning his hair is like that of a lot of Russians, a kind of light brown to dark blond.

Now we move on to the 3rd and 4th days of September.

The first description on the left tells us this day is the commemoration Svayatago Svyashchennomuchenika Anfim’ Episkop’ Nikomidiskiy.  Svyatago is just again the “of” form of Svyatuiy, meaning”Saint” or “Holy.”  So this is the day of commemoration of Holy Svyashcennomuchenika Anfim’  You will recall that a muchenik is a martyr.  This fellow is a Svyashchenno-muchenik, meaning a priest-martyr.  And his name is Anfim.  It tells us further that he is Episkop’ — meaning bishop — Nikomidiskiy — of a place called Nicomedia.  We are told he is syed, meaning grey-haired, and that his riza — his robe — is kreshchata, ornamented with crosses (cross patterns on the robe).

The second description from the left tells us that on Toy zhe den’ — meaning “on the same day,” is also celebrated Prepodobnuiy Feoktist’.  If you have been paying attention, you will know that the first word means he is a monk saint, and the second word is his name, Feoktist.  We are told he is syed, which again is a word you know now.  It means his hair (and beard if he has one, which he does) are grey.  Then it tells us his riza ispod — the undergarment beneath his monk’s robe — is vokhra z byelilom — ochre with white.

The third fellow from left — on the 4th of September — is Svyatuiy Muchenik Vavila — Holy Marytr Vavila.  He is syed — grey-haired.  His Riza is with krestuiy bagrovui, ornamented with crosses that are bagrovuiy — a form of bagor — meaning crosses that are reddish-purple.  But the youths — the three mladentsi with him — are v sorochnakh — in “shirts” loosely, but a better way to translate v sorochnakh would be “in tunics.”

There are a couple of notes added , one of which says V’ toy zhe den’ Moisey Bogovidets’ — “On the same day Moses the God-seer,” and the other says Cei den’ praznouem neopalimiya koupinuiy, meaning “This day is celebrated the Unburnt Thornbush,” meaning the “Unburnt Thornbush” icon of Mary.  Neither Moses (the Old Testament fellow) nor the icon are shown.

The last guy on the right is Svatuiy Vavila Nikomidiskiy, “Holy Vavila of Nicomedia.”  We are told he is syed, which should be an old word to you by now — meaning grey [-haired], and that his riza verkh is bagor (reddish-purple) dich [grey].  Riza, you will recall, means “robe.”  And verkh means “outer.”  So when talking about robes, the verkh is the outer robe, and the ispod is the robe beneath or “under.”  The painter adds the note that the probel — the highlighting on the robe — is lazor — that brilliant, deep blue.  And finally the ispod — the under-robe — is bakan dich.  Bakan is a dark red, and dich, you will recall, is grey to grey-blue.

We have only covered some main saints for four days, and already you can see how very repetitive this all is, which is why it is not really difficult to learn to read icon titles and a good part of the podlinniki — the painter’s manuals — as well.  Now imagine how many of these saints one has to go through for the whole year, and you begin to get an idea of just how dull these manuals really are.  They are not page-turners, they were not meant for reading enjoyment.  They really were just working documents for icon painters that enabled them to follow the standard forms for hundreds of common saints (and the Stroganov Podlinnik does not include all the saints in the calendar by any means).  They were the painter’s equivalent of a schematic diagram in electronics.  One referred to it to make sure one was assembling a saint on the prepared icon board correctly.

One had to have the descriptions of all these saints not only to paint calendar icons, but also for those patrons who would come in and want to order an icon of their “Angel Day” saint — meaning their name-day saint.  Russians were named for these saints, so, for example, a fellow named “Feoktist” would want an icon of his saint, who was also named Feoktist.

All of this kept the icon painters in business, but it could be deadly dull work for them, as one can imagine, with little room left for imagination and creativity.

If you would like to examine the Stroganov Podlinnik in more detail, it can be downloaded free of charge at the following site:

https://books.google.com/books/about/RStroganovskìĭ_ikonopisnîĭ_litsevoĭ.html?id=UpAIAAAAQAAJ

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