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Culture Traditional forms of Art - Professions Silver work Epirus Syrako and Kalarrytes

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made of stone
Silver work
Wood sculpture
Hagiography - Painting
Syrako and Kalarrytes
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Another known craftsman was the pastor Diamantis from Kalarrytes, who made the silver casing of the portable icon of the Virgin Mary of Eleousa, at the Eleousas Monastery on the Island of Ioannina in 1769. The perfect construction of the casing is a testament to the ability of the pastor Diamantis, in whose work the Byzantine tradition survives.
One of the greatest craftsmen of the period was Dimitrios Papageorgiou from Kalarrytes, whose fame of his name created many tales surrounding his work. As it was said, for the orders he received he charged one florin (gold coin) for each strike of his hammer. And when once the Ioanninites appointed him the construction of a plate they were to gift to the Ali Pasha, they reacted hearing his exorbitant demand. Yet for the creation of the silver plate three strikes were sufficient. Moreover, as he later declared, he did not want the money of his countrymen but the recognition of his art.
His only identified work is the bookbinding of the gospel of the Proussou Monastery in Euritania (1796). One side depicts the Descent to Hades with the four Evangelists in the corners, while the other depicts the Resurrection and four prophets. The representation of the drama in the figures, their intense motions, the rich plant décor and the entire rendition of the scenes indicate the survival of the Byzantine tradition in iconography, as well as the intense influence of western art, primarily in the style.
The most significant however craftsmen whose names were connected to the perfection of the silverworks craft are the Kalarrytinites Athanasios Tzimouris and Georgios Diamantis Bafas.
It is unknown when Athanasios Tzimouris was born. He did work though, and create in the last decades of the 18th and the first two of the 19th centuries. Until 1821 he worked in Ioannina and in Kalarrytes and held the position of head silversmith of the Ali Pasha. With the destruction of Kalarrytes by Turkish-Albanian armies he fled to Corfu where he gave his last breath in 1823. Of his works only the ecclesiastical articles can be identified, as they bear a signature. To the contrary, his obviously large number of secular works is lost in the anonymity of this kind, as by rule jewelry and secular items in general bear no signature. According then to research, have been found and identified with certainty eleven bindings of gospels that originate from the hand of Tzimouris: in the Cathedral of Ioannina, in Saint Theodora in Arta, in Kalarrytes, in Upper Soudena in Zagori and in Kapesovo in Ioannina, in the Panagia of Kseno and in the Platyteras Monastery in Corfu, in Saint Mavra and the Saint Dionysios Monastery in Zakynthos, in the Monastery of Saint Vissarionos Dousikou in Trikala and the Cathedral of Lesvos.
Despite the fact that knowledge about his work is limited to these signed bindings, they are able to show the high level of knowledge, creativity and value of Tzimouris.
On the bindings then, he uses the following inscriptions: “Constructed and are made in the kalarrytes village of Ioannina by the hands of Athanasios Tzimouris” or “Fabrica d Attanasio Zimuri di Calavrito nella Provincia d Ipiro”. In particular the foreign inscription accompanies the gospels found in the Eptanisa. To these he adds in Greek: “No…The present are worked in the kalarrytes village of Ioannina by the hands of athanasios N. tzimouris. The silver is first class (i.e. clear) its value is…”. In the spaces he himself writes the serial number of the bookbinding, the value and his signature. This careful existence of standard inscriptions, but also the term fabrica suggest systematic work, which surpasses the boundaries of a small craft workshop and refers to a completely organized business, where the primary control was had by Tzimouris himself. Indeed, the term fabrica is also used in his will, a fact that shows the conscious perception he had regarding his work and his value. A value that is confirmed also by the cost of acquiring one of his gospel covers, that reached 1600 grosia. An amount that was very high for his time.
From the information that exists and through the comparison of different types of bindings of many other craftsmen it is very possible, if not certain, that Tzimouris created a special type of bookbinding, which became the standard for the other craftsmen that came after him. On the one side he places the Resurrection, the four evangelists and six scenes from the life of Christ while on the other the Crucifixion, four prophets and again six scenes from the life of Christ. Finally, the spine is comprised of six tablets, amongst which is also the one with the signature. Despite the fact of the constant repetition of these motifs, the alternation of the tablets and the exquisitely fine work of the surface lead to every binding as being considered unique and an autonomous creation, which is not related to a previous one or one following of the same craftsman.
Through his work can be seen the influences of western art, as well as their harmonious combination with elements of the Byzantine tradition. The western influences on the iconographical rendition of the scenes but also of the individual figures, the intense motions of the faces, the realistic rendition of the clothing, the rich and fine spirit of illustration of the abstract décor combine with the absence of a descriptive spirit, a proclivity to austerity and in general respect to his study of the Byzantine tradition, as this survives in the post-Byzantine era.
In the end, the envious stance of this craftsman toward other technicians of his kind and his self-contained character did not permit the learning and maintenance of the secrets of his art. Moreover, those who tried to imitate him did not succeed even if they faithfully copied one of his works.
At approximately the same time a second great craftsman of silverwork actively creates, even though his star shone until the end of the first half of the 19th century. He was the Kalarrytinite Georgios Diamantis Bafas. He was born in 1784 in Kalarrytes and died in 1854 in Zakynthos, where he had taken refuge before the beginning of the Greek Revolution of 1821. Even though he was born and studied in Ioannina and Kalarrytes, essentially his work is connected to Zakynthos and is a direct testament of the influence and contribution of the Ioanninan silver-goldsmith craft in the greater area of the Greek world.
Despite the fact that he spent the first decades of his life in Ioannina, his signed works are located in Zakynthos. Indeed, the most important of these is associated with the protector of the island Saint Dionysios. As such, this great craftsman constructed the binding of the gospel, the ‘apron’ of the magisterial icon, the sepulcher and the silver reliquary of the saint, the binding of the gospel and the plate in the church of Chrysopigi, the apron on the icon of Saint Georgios in the United Churches of Kastario, the apron of the icon of the Virgin Mary in Saint Georgio in Laggadas as well as the plate in the church of Saint Catherine in Sina. Aside from these accomplished signed works there are references to others not found by research, such as for example, the crutch of the Bishop of Ithaca Paisios in 1851. According to the document, this monumentally honest craftsman, who also died poor, lowers the price of the crutch, because the silver was by two ounces less than the agreed upon price.
As also seen by the numbering of his works Georgios Bafas, in contrast to Tzimouris, worked in the entire scope of the ecclesiastical silver-goldsmith craft, while in his case we are not familiar with his secular works, as on these, as was the case with almost all his fellow craftsmen, he did not place his signature.
In contrast to Tzimouris, who balances between the Byzantine tradition and western influences, Georgios Bafas consciously joins the plastic values of western Baroque and moves away from the post-Byzantine tradition. In his creations, the scenes have multitudes of figures and the movement of the figures reaches the limits of being overblown. The presence of the human form is extremely exuberant, the bodies dominate the space represented with an intensely realistic style, the folds of the clothing intensify the movement, while the plant scenes are represented with a naturalistic spirit.
So then, the two greatest craftsmen of the post-Byzantine Ioanninan silverworks, beginning in Ioannina and basing themselves in the century old tradition of their art in the area, had the courage to try and achieve the development of the facts in which they were taught, the first in the direction of a conjugation of the Byzantine and western tradition, and the second in the direction of a complete acceptance of western aesthetic values. Despite their two different paths they showed with their truly exquisite technique the inexhaustible limits of the silversmith art, but also the high level of apprenticeship in Ioannina, as without it they would not have been able to assimilate the tradition and give new life to their craft.
Despite the rich production of silver objects, secular and ecclesiastical, the same craftsmen also make copper articles, which however, are not lacking as works of art compared to silver objects. A characteristic example is the large copper decorative vessel (water jug), which is today exhibited in the Public Museum of Folk Art in Ioannina. According to the inscription it had been donated in 1811 by the commander of the guard of the Ali Pasha Thanasis Vagias to his son Vellis: “TO THE SON OF THE VIZIER VELLIS FROM THANASI VAGIA 1811”. Even though copper, the high quality of construction and the artistic rendition of the pastoral scene that goes round the belly of the jug, are a testament of the ability of the unknown craftsman. Indeed, this craftsman was possibly one of the most renowned in Ioannina, a fact seen by the quality of his work as well as whom it was destined for.
At the same time, many Ioanninan silver-goldsmiths work in large centers of the Ottoman Empire, such as for example in Thessalonica. There, in 1798 we meet the Kalarrytinite Nikolaos Kertzos. Salvaged in the Vatopaidiou Monastery is a sanctification crucifix that bears the inscription: “MADE BY THE HANDS OF NIKOLAOS KERTZOS KALARYTOY IN THE YEAR 1798”. This crucifix of exquisite technique, with the complex wiring, mainly, floral décor, the enamel, the pearls and semi-precious stones, and the complex wire floral creation of the base indicates the ability of the specific craftsman. Indeed, it is very possible that Nikolaos Kertzos is identified with the Nikolaos from Kalarrytes, who with his apprentice Ioannis in 1811 made a crucifix that was dedicated by the guild of goldsmiths of Thessalonica to the Vatopaidiou Monastery (“OF THE HANDS OF NIKOLAOY KALARITOY AND HIS STUDEN IOANNOY”). The appointment of the construction of the offering and essentially the representation of the guild to the Kalarrytinite craftsman indicates the prominent position he had in the guild of goldsmiths of Thessalonica.
Also found in the vestry of the same Monastery are two sanctification crucifixes “BY THE HANDS OF IOANOY DIMITRIOY OF THE MEZOVOY VILLAGES”, of 1785 and 1789 respectively, constructed in Ioannnina and dedicated to the Vatopaidiou Monastery. This indicative reference to works of Ioanninan silversmiths, which are located in such a remote area from Ioannina, show the value, esteem and separate position these works had in the Greek country and indeed in an area where other craftsmen also worked.
This intense presence of craftsmen, who in 1812 number 53 and in 1818 number 26, as well as the rich production of secular and ecclesiastical works comes to a sudden halt in 1820. The defection of the Ali Pasha, the war and the siege of Ioannina that followed, the temporary flee of the residents and finally the burning of the city were decisive factors in the interruption of production. Still, aside from the final plunder, the pressures of the Ali on the Ioanninites for money and then the pressures of the Sultan armies also for money, in combination with the final pillage of the city lead to the sale of many silver objects, resulting in the loss of a large portion of the creations up to that time, especially of the secular one.
After the death of the Ali Pasha (1822) the refugees gradually begin to return to the city and life returns to a more regular pace around 1830. Without of course the old dynamics existing, the market returns to regular rhythms, the guilds regroup and re-organize; the caravans continue to move in the merchant streets of the past. Yet the deaths from the constant wars, the plaque (1823) and the migration lead to a reduction of the members of the guilds and consequently in the reduction of production, without there being though a reduction of taxation, which was calculated based on registers prior to 1820. Despite this obvious recession the new census was completed in 1831. So an economic recovery is seen, which halts in 1839 with the issue of the Hatt i Serif, at which time, among other things the concessions of the guilds are limited.
In this period, and for the entire duration of the 19th century are now absent the great craftsmen of silver. However, production does not cease. Indeed, in 1862 the workshops number 26, a satisfactory number for those times.
The production of silver articles continues its course in terms of the ecclesiastical as well as the secular objects, without however reaching the level of previous eras. The silversmiths work with the entire scope of their craft but now new motifs appear, influenced by western art of the period or from vessels and jewelry which are brought to the city from the travels of the rich merchants. According to the documents of the period the silver-goldsmiths make Albanian pistols with silver plated parts and with the technique of savat that cost 273 French francs and pistols that are gold plated or gilded whose price was 358 French francs. They also made and decorated other parts associated with guns, such as cartridge-belts, knives and oil box for guns, again silver plated and with the technique of savat, whose price ranged from 26 up to 212 French francs, depending on the kind.
As for the articles of “household” use, reputable and much sought after for possession or for gifts by all financially powerful families (Christian, Muslim, Jewish) were the silver ligenobrika. Also continuing is the creation of other articles as well, such as for example, amulets, pans, trays, mirror casings, cutlery, mugs and other vessels or chests. Yet the passing of time and the creation of a type of urban class leads to the creation of vessels foreign to tradition, such as fruit-bowls, zafria, milk jugs etc., which lend prestige and an “urban” wrapping to their owners. Indicative of these changes are the variations in decorative themes that accompany these vessels. Without rejecting the traditional decorative themes, now new ones are introduced, at an iconographical level as well as in terms of style.
For example, on a silver pan with etched décor and savati, of 1874 (Museum of Folk Art in Metsovo), are illustrated: a deer being chased by a dog, a lion devouring a wild boar, a hunter returning from the hunt, a young man wrestling with a lion, a woman returning from the field, a seated writer and a male figure on a chariot drawn by two horses. The same trend is also seen on secular objects of the Ioannidi Collection in Ioannina.
The production of ecclesiastical objects also continues, even if in a limited number in relation to the past, according to the existing information and salvaged works. Here we must however note that the craftsmen no longer sign their works with the frequency encountered with this trend as in previous periods. An indication perhaps, of the absence of great craftsmen but also possibly of the decline in production and the absence of the glory that surrounded the profession before. For example, in the ecclesiastical Collection of the Island, on the sepulcher of Saint Varvara the craftsman signs: “BY THE HANDS X:D:D:KG”. We see the same thing on the sepulcher of the skull of Saint Alexander (1868) where the signature is found: “by x. K”. Moreover, the construction of these two sepulchers and the quality of the décor indicates an ability, which however, does not reach the artistic creations of the past.
Despite this turn in the silver-goldsmith craft and the restriction of the creative space, after the destruction of Kalarrytes, there are also very able Ioanninite craftsmen who live, work and continue the century old tradition of their country away from it. Aside from Georgio Diamanti Bafa in Zakynthos, a characteristic example is Spyridon Papamosxos. He was born in Kalarrytes in 1820, but his silversmith father Vasilios moved his family to this island of the Eptanisa. There Spyridon studied with his father, who primarily worked with the creation of gold objects, and continued the tradition of the craft of Tzimouris, as Vasilios in turn had studied with this great technician when he lived in Kalarrytes. He then continued the family tradition along with his brother Nikolaos until 1882 when he passed away. The value of his works is immediately recognized in Corfu. As such in 1841 when the ladies of the city wanted to present a farewell gift to the wife of the British Commissioner Lady Douglas that was leaving for England, they went to him to make a gold vessel of exquisite artistry, which left excellent impressions on those who placed the order as well as on the lady who received the gift. His works are also found in churches of Corfu that are indicative of the high level of his artistic knowledge and his creative spirit. At the church of Saint Spyridon, in the suburb of Agio Rokko he made the silver ‘apron’ of a portable icon with the theme of the first miracle of Saint Spyridon, while in the church of the Virgin Mary of Stereoton he made the silver chandelier. As his fame had surpassed the narrow boundaries of the island we also find his works in other areas, such as for example the silver chandelier in the church of Saint Andreas in Patra.
The Kalarrytini family Boulgaris will follow a different course, who once fleeing to Corfu and staying there for a time, then moves to Italy, where it will create the world renowned jewelry firm of Bulgari.
At the turn of the 20th century, despite the economic recession and the decline of production the remaining silversmiths continue the century long tradition of the city. Of the more renowned, we may indicatively mention the Metsovite Kyrkos Lakkas (1844 – 1936), Savvatis, Syrmakesis, Adamides, Kalamboukis, Kontos, Zoi and Chatzis. Of these workshops, some continue to exist until our days, continuing the family tradition.