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Culture Traditional forms of Art - Professions Wood sculpture Epirus Metsovo

Support to the epithyron for the Sacred Porte, Monastery for Aghios Ioannis the Forerunner at Krya (1760)
(Photo: Triantaphyllos Sioulis)

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made of stone
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Gorgopotamos
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Wood sculpture of Metsovo
Wood sculpture of Gorgopotamos

14/11/2006
The guilds or companies of wood sculptors

Triantaphyllos Sioulis

© Ioannina Prefecture
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In relation to the number of members that constituted the companies of the taliadoroi we have been accordingly informed: «Another almost fantastic size, whose story contains fairytale elements, where Ioannis or Stephanos from Krousovo, with his crew that numbered more than 70 apprentices, carved in 1831 the iconostasis at the church of Aghios Nikolaos at Krousovo». Miss Ang. Hatzimichalis has written that «the large association usually contained 30 – 40 men, some times even 100». Assuredly, these numbers that have been mentioned are excessive.
As we have observed in an agreement for the construction of an iconostasis at the church of Aghia Triada at Lixouri dated 18th May 1823, the two wood sculptors «master – Demetris Margarolis son of the late Andreas and master – Antzoulos Athiniotis son of Nikolos from the island of Zakynthos» went to their homeland to «...Bring their equipment and another two craftsmen...», namely 4 in total.
Plataris, has further to research that he conducted into the registers of the master taliadoroi, in which there has been noted for each iconostasis as well as for each working day the number of taliadoroi and the assistants that were employed, at ten (10) iconostases for churches in Epirus, Thessaly, Macedonia and Phthiotida, found that at nine (9) iconostases the number of the wood sculptors for each iconostasis was from 2 up to 5 and the assistants 2 up to 3. Namely, there were usually in total from 5 up to 8 people in each company. Just at one iconostasis, as he has stated, he counted 12 taliadoroi and 4 assistants, in total 16, and this came from Tyrnavo in Thessaly in 1873. The reason that they avoided the large companies, according to the writer, was the problem in housing them, their sanitation and mainly the feeding expenses, as was told to him by the taliadoroi with whom he spoke, amongst whom were Giorgis Ath. Tsiourekas (1869 – 1954) and Gousios Κ. Nakos (1881 – 1958) from Metsovo and Alexandros G. Bouris (1897 – 1970) from Tournovo.
Plataris has in fact produced an extract from a letter that relates to a sewing workshop, in order to support his view, which relates to the feeding expenses, known as the «taemia». The letter has been sent by the major merchant from Kalarytinos Georgios Douroutis (1770 – 1836) dated 28th November 1802 to his brother and partner at Trieste, Christodoulos, which in the specific extract that is of interest to us has written: «MY OPINION IS THAT WE CUT BACK THE SUPPLY TO HIM (I.E. IT RELATES TO NIKOLAS KOMBOTIS) BECAUSE IN ARTA THE CONSUMPTION IS NOT HUGE. A PERSON CANNOT OPEN A WORKSHOP (I.E. A SEWING ROOM THAT ONLY SEWS CAPES), BECAUSE A PERSON CAN LOSE EVERYTHING JUST ON THE TAEMIA (I.E. FEEDING EXPENSES). WRITE TO HIM IN RESPONSE AND LET HIM KNOW THAT UPON YOUR ASSOCIATION ENDING YOU WILL COME HERE TO SETTLE YOUR ACCOUNTS AND WHEN IT IS CONVENIENT DO LIKEWISE AND HOLD HIM IN SUSPENSE UNTIL YOU HAVE COME HERE AND THEN WE SHALL SEE AND BEFORE YOU COME HERE SPEAK TO HIM THAT UPON MY ARRIVAL I SHALL ACT AS IT IS MOSΤ CONVENIENT BY INVESTIGATING EVERY OPINION THAT IS PUT FORWARD».
Furthermore, in another work Plataris has referred to the existence of many wood sculptors at Metsovo, with a long tradition in a well organised guild structure. One of these that was composed of nine (9) people, was reinforced with more people from Metsovo and was divided into two in order to cover the large demand, on 16th April 1890.
Basilis Platanos has asserted that the wood sculptors, especially at Metsovo, were not organized into guilds. The Metsovo wood sculpture «MAY BE CONSIDERED AS A COTTAGE INDUSTRY AND THAT HAS ALWAYS REMAINED WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF ARTISTIC WORK, FOR THE WORKS THAT WERE CREATED WITH THE MOST GENUINE LOVE AND HONESTY. THAT IS WHY THE METSOVO TAGIADOROI OR SCULPTORS, MASTER CRAFTSMEN, APPRENTICES AND ASSISTANTS WERE NEVER ORGANISED INTA GUILD WITH A HIERARCHY. IT SERVED THEIR PROFESIONAL PURPOSES, WHICH DID NOT ACTUALLY EXIST OR RATHER THEY COULD EXIST UNDER THE ARTISTIC TERMS THAT THEY WERE WORKING. ONLY THE WOOD SCULPTORS FROM THE VILLAGE OF TOURNOVO IN THE KONITSA REGION HAS BEEN ORGANISED INTO A SEPARATE GUILD...».
However the same writers speaks elsewhere on the origin of wood sculpture in Metsovo that began from the Byzantine period and it has been continued with love of the art from the 17th up until the 19th century, where he refers to «guilds» from Metsovo and their journeys, and specifically: «THE ‘‘GUILD’’ OF THE TAGIADOROI AT METSOVO TRAVELLED TO THE FARTHEST CITIES TO UNDERTAKE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT WORKS IN WOOD SCULPTURE. THAT IS WHY WE OBSERVE IN NEARLY ALL THE RUMANIAN, BULGARIAN AND SERBIAN CHURCHES, GREEK MASTERPIECES IN WOOD SCULPTURE, WHICH HAVE BEEN CREATED BY THE FROM METSOVO AND THE ARTISAN VILLAGES OF EPIRUS, WITH THE RENOWNED ICONOSTASES, PULPITS, DESPOTIC THRONES, SANCTUARY PORTE, ETC. THESE TOOK PLACE IN THE LATTER YEARS OF THE TURKISH OCCUPATION AND MORE SPECIFICALLY DURING THE 18TH CENTURY...».
Even according to Ms. Hatzimichalis «THE MAITRS WOOD SCULPTORS, THE TALIADOROI WERE NOT ORGANIZED INTO ASSOCIATIONS», «...THE TALIADOROI WERE NEVER ABLE TO BE ORGANIZED INTO REGULAR ORGANIZED ASSOCIATIONS, FOLLOWING A PROFESSIONAL PURPOSE. THIS PURPOSE DID NOT HOLD FOR THEM OR RATHER IT COULD NOT EXIST WITH THE PRE CONDITIONS THAT THEY WORKED UNDER, WHERE THEY GAVE THEMSELVES CONSCIENTIOUSLY AND WITH LOVE FOR THEIR WORK, AND WITHOUT KNOWING IN ADVANCE THE SUM THAT THEY WOULD EARN. THEIR WORKS HAD A SPECIAL VALUE, WHICH CANNOT BE INVOICED … IN THEIR SIMPLICITY, IN THEIR INNOCENCE THE TALIADOROI HAD A SOUL AND AN ARTIST CONSCIENCE AND AN UNDERSTANDING OF THEIR MISSION. THE TALIADOROS WORKED FOR HIS IDEAL, TO SATISFY THE ARTISTIC SENSE AND TO EXPRESS IN HIS WORKS WHAT HE HAS INSIDE OF HIM WITH SIMPLICITY AND DISTINCTION, WHICH THE REAL THINGS POSSESS».
She is naturally speaking about the artistic value of the works and she may even be correct however, in relation to isolated and exceptional cases, as for example with the legendary figure of Anastasios Moschos and the iconostasis that he created at Galaxeidi. However, we cannot overlook the fact that the wood sculptors also had needs and families to support.
The type of organisation that the wood sculptors possessed is also apparent in the agreements that they signed between themselves. In relation to this matter we have presented a partnership agreement dated to 1886:
«WE, THE PARTIES HERETO, GEORGIOS Ν. MELIOTIS, KONSTAS Ι. KATSORAS AND NIKOLAOS G. MELIOTIS, HAVE AGREED TO BECOME PARTNERS ON THIS DAY AND FOR ANY WORK THAT WE COMPLETE TO DIVIDED THE INCOME INTO EIGHT (8) EQUAL SHARES AS FOLLOWS:
Α΄. GEORGIOS Ν. MELIOTIS SHALL TAKE ANTONIOS SOULTIS AS HIS ASSOCIATE OR WHERE ANTONIOS SOULTIS IS UNABLE, HE SHALL TAKE ANOTHER (THAT IS SIMILARLY QUALIFIED) AND THE SON OF KOSTAS BARSAS AND IN RELATION TO THE CORRESPONDING OF THE WORK BY THESE THREE GEORGIOS Ν. MELIOTIS SHALL RECEIVE THREE EIGHTHS 3/8 OF THE SHARE TO ALSO PAY THE ABOVE ANTONIOS SOULTIS AS WELL AS THE SON OF Κ. BARSAS;
Β΄. KOSTAS Ι. KATSIORAS SHALL TAKE MICHOS PALAMAS AS HIS ASSOCIATE OR WHERE MICHOS PALAMAS IS UNABLE, HE SHALL TAKE ANOTHER (THAT IS SIMILARLY QUALIFIED) AND THE SON OF GEORGIOS GOUDIBENOS AND IN RELATION TO THE CORRESPONDING OF THE WORK BY THESE THREE KOSTAS Ι. KATSORAS SHALL RECEIVE THREE EIGHTHS 3/8 OF THE PROFIT AND THE LOSS FROM THE WORK TO ALSO PAY THE ABOVE MICHOS PALAMAS AS WELL AS THE SON OF GEORGIOS GOUDIBENOS …;
C΄. NIKOLAOS G. MELIOTIS SHALL RECEIVE THE CORRESPONDING OF THE WORK FOR ONE EIGHTH 1/8 SHARE WITHOUT PAYING FOR ANYONE;
D΄. IN RELATION TO THE REMAINING ONE EIGHTH FOR THE COMPLETION OF THE EIGHT EQUAL SHARES NIKOLAOS G. MELIOTIS SHALL TAKE DEMETRIOS BILITSIS AS HIS ASSOCIATE AND NIKOLAOS MELIOTIS SHALL RECEIVE THE REMAINING ONE EIGHTH 1/8 SHARE AND FROM THE 1/8 SHARE HE SHALL DRAW THE SALARY FOR DEMETRIOS BILITSIS IN THE SUM OF SIX (6) OTTOMAN POUNDS AND HE SHALL ALSO DRAW THE EXPENSES FOR DEMETRIOS BILITSIS AND FROM THE REMAINED NIKOLAOS G. MELIOTIS SHALL RECIVE ONE HALF (½) WHILST OUT OF THE OTHER HALF GEORGIOS Ν. MELIOTIS SHALL RECEIVE ONE QUARTER (¼) AND KOSTAS Ι. KATSIORAS ONE QUARTER (¼) AND WHERE ANYONE IS ABSENT FROM WORK HE SHALL NOT RECEIVE THE CORRESPONDING DAY’S PAY. IN THE EVENT THAT THEY HIRE MORE WORKERS THEY SHALL DIVIDE THE PROFITS AND LOSSES ACCORDINGLY AS STATED BEFORE AND ABOVE. TWO SIMILAR SIGNED DOCUMENTS HAVE BEEN PREPARED FOR EACH TO HOILD IN PROOF AND
FOR THE SECURITY
OF THE PARTIES HERETO.
AT METSOVO ON 20TH AUGUST 1886
GEORGIOS Ν. MELIOTIS
KOSTAS Ι. KATZORAS
NIKOLAOS G. MELIOTIS
DEMETRIOS Ν. AKRIVOU HAS WRITTEN AND WITNESSED
ZOGOS CHEIMONAS HAS WITNESSED».
From this it would appear that they had a communal as well as honourable and just management. However the existence of a guild has not been demonstrated. However there is a type of guild organisation, since there is a hierarchy and the members are bound with partnership agreements between them, for specific jobs. In support of this view is the fact that there was no guild of wood sculptors in the classical sense of the term, and it is also a fact that in order to secure on certain occasions a job, a team of wood sculptors had to submit to a type of tender. The team with the best work (sample) would receive the job.
In accordance with the above the existence of a common law and not a written law is evident, i.e. a charter, as occurred with the guilds in the cities. No information has been preserved from which it may be concluded that they had a board of directors, a charter with binding regulations for all the members, etc.
Furthermore in the agreements with their employers that have survived, there is no reference to an association or a guild of wood sculptors, rather only the name of the master taliadoros is mentioned, which is indicative of their method of organization along the lines of a family centred craft, or even of a group – party, as has been mentioned elsewhere.
Accordingly it is most likely that they constituted small member companies or teams or parties, whose main body was mainly constituted by members of the same family. However this does not imply that they were unable to constitute on occasions a group with other members, especially where the need existed. In that case they preferred people from the same area with comparable knowledge and all together they constituted a party with a guild type organisation.
This usually occurred since on many occasions they needed to remain for years at the area of their work, whether it related to churches or the residence of the wealthy and accordingly the ties between them needed to be strong. The competition especially during certain periods was strong and the economic security on the basis of the law and the regulations that related to the guilds was necessary.