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Home 09 March 2021
Culture Traditional forms of Art - Professions Wood sculpture Epirus Metsovo

Vemothyra for the Sacred Porte, Monastery for the Repose of the Virgin Mary at Periblepton (1708-1724)
(Photo: Triantaphyllos Sioulis)

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Geographic map of Ioannina Prefecture with the works of Metsovo and Tournovo wood sculptors
Geographic map of Ioannina Prefecture with the works of Metsovo and Tournovo wood sculptors

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Topics
made of stone
textliles
Silver work
Wood sculpture
Hagiography - Painting
LOCATION
Epirus
Gorgopotamos
Metsovo
Wood sculpture: Subtopics All topics
Representative works
Wood sculpture of Metsovo
Wood sculpture of Gorgopotamos

14/11/2006
Their Social Position

Triantaphyllos Sioulis

© Prefecture of Ioannina
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In relation to their social status, especially for the master craftsmen, we may assert with authority that they were given respect by all, even by the Turks, since they were careful with their work, conscientious and good professionals. This conclusion has arisen from cases such as that of Giorgis Κ. Chrestos, who was «APPOINTED BY THE TURKS AS THE SUPERINTENDENT FOR THE ONE TENTH TAX (MEMOURI) IN THE VILLAGES OF LISKATSI, TOURNOVO, CHIONADES AND PLIKATION. NAMELY THE SUITABLE PERSON WAS SUMMONED TO SECURE THE RIGHTS OF THE TURKISH AUTHORITIES OVER THE BONDSMEN AND TO AVOID THE COMMISSION OF INJUSTICES AT THE EXPENSE OF THE BONDSMEN». He was distinguished by his philanthropy and altruism, which were accordingly honoured later on when the taxation system changed. In fact during the last years if his life he stayed at his village where he assumed new responsibilities as the Community president, curate of the church and a member of the School board.
The fact that they were well paid and their living standard and their living conditions were certainly better than the craftsmen in other crafts, we have also concluded from the fact that they had the capacity to also lend money, since it is well known «that amongst the craftsmen, the ‘‘wood sculptors’’ or ‘‘taliadoroi’’ were well remuneration because they worked in the wealthy residences and the seraglios of the beys and were never out of work». The members of the parties were very closely bound together and they accordingly made every effort. In happiness and in sadness they were always together and stood by one another or the members of their families. They organized annual festivals, usually in honour of their guardian saint and on Pancake Day, the leader would put up a feast for almost the whole day where his apprentices were invited, which resulted in the members of the families of the craftsmen and the apprentices being closely connected. In relation to the guardian saint of wood sculptors, an old wood sculptor had mentioned that they had earlier venerated Aghios Panteleimon, whilst further to communication with the Association of the wood sculptors in Athens; they mentioned to me that they honour the festival of the Holy Spirit.
Most of these were illiterate or barely literate and on most occasions they did not place inscriptions with their names or place of origin on their works (the contrary to what happened with the barely literate painters). There are also however the exceptions, which also occurred in other regions of the Greek speaking area, which also revealed their education.
It was not a rule to pass this art down from father to son, since we are cognisant that the parents were struggling to provide another future that was different to some of their children. This can be seen with the Metsovo taliadoros G. Meranos, who had one of his sons educated as a teacher. It is indeed possible that the difficult working conditions of the taliadoroi had played a part in this. Nevertheless, one must also not exclude the tradition for learning in certain regions, as well as the passion for a national offering by the parents, whose protagonists were the teachers.
During some periods, the lack in creativity and the sterile mimicking have also presented the difficult conditions of their work and life, which were probably also due to the more general political and economic crisis. Especially in relation to some regions of Epirus, the absence of even the simple wood sculptured works indicates that we are in the period of decline. This has been identified mainly from the last quarter of the 19th century (1866) onwards.
In relation to the wood sculptors and their work, they «...WERE VERY PROUD OF THEIR ART AND CONSIDERED THEMSELVES TO BE SUPERIOR TO THE CARPENTERS, THE PAINTERS AND EVEN THE GOLD SMITHS, BECAUSE THEY VIEWED THE LATTER VERY INFERIOR AND HAD TERMED THEM ‘‘MERCHANTS’’ BECAUSE THEY PRODUCED JEWELLERY FOR THE WOMEN AND SOME OF THEM WENT TO THE BAZAARS AND THE FESTIVALS TO SELL THEIR MERCHANDISE. IN RELATION TO THE CARPENTERS, THEY HAD SARCASTICALLY TERMED THEM ‘‘MUD RAKERS’’ NOT ONLY BECAUSE THEY CONSIDERED THEIR PROFESSION TO BE INFERIOR, BUT ALSO DURING THIS PERIOD THE CARPENTERS WERE ALSO THE PAINTERS OF RESIDENCES AND THEY PLACED THEIR HANDS IN THE MUD AND THE PAINT. IN RELATION TO THE TAGIADOROI THEY WERE NEVER OCCUPIED WITH ANYTHING BUT THE WOOD SCULPTURE». Accordingly «THE METSOVO WOOD SCULPTORS PROCLAIMED THEIR ART WITH PRIDE AND THEY VIEWED ALL THE OTHER CRAFTSMEN WITH CONTEMPT, WITHOUT EXCEPTING THE GOLD SMITHS, WHOM THEY CONSIDERED TO BE INFERIOR ‘‘MERCHANTS’’, AS THEY USED TO SAY» and on the basis of their good reputation «WE ONLY UNDERTOOK LARGE ORDERS FOR THE CHURCHES AND THE MANSIONS AND IN FACT FOR THOSE THAT HAD RICH AND INTRICATE CARVINGS, SIMILAR TO THE ICONOSTASES, AND WE NEVER UNDERTOOK CARPENTRY WORK. WHEN THEY WERE CARVING IN FACT, THEY WOULD NOT LET ANYONE OBSERVE THEM, AND ON MANY OCCASIONS THEY SCULPTURED THE WOOD IN THEIR HOUSE, AND ACCORDINGLY THE WOOD SCULPTURE AT METSOVO MAY BE CONSIDERED TO BE A COTTAGE ART, WHICH HAS ALWAYS REMAINED IN THE REALM OF ARTISTIC WORK, FOR THE WORKS THAT WERE CREATED WITH THE MOST GENUINE LOVE AND HONESTY».
The crews of wood sculptors had felt a need to honour not only the exceptional progress of their technique, the perfection of the tools, the new styles and the new trends, but also the value of know how and the dexterity in the human hand, the ease with which a person can exploit all the qualities of timber. At the same time they confirmed the emergence of a kind of aristocracy in manual work. Innovations were springing out of the crews that were being invited by church committees and notables for a certain period to produce various works. At the completion of work at one of these they moved on elsewhere. In this manner the crews became more adept; they competed with one another searching new methods and new styles. These itinerant craftsmen moved with freedom from the constraints of the guilds, which resulted in their imposition in terms of perspective of their preferences with the influence that they were exercising. We have noted something similar in the West, in many forms of art, especially from the middle ages onwards. Fame brought work to the wood sculptors. Accordingly, they often personally ensured, on many occasions with excess, that their work was promoted by boasting of their works, which were both magnificent and imposing. However, the fact that they referred to the craftsmen of the other guilds as ‘‘merchants’’, ‘‘mud rakers’’, etc, may only be a coincidence if not excessive, since in accordance with the agreements that they signed, they themselves also assumed the carpentry and mud work, even the gold leafing on many occasions as well as the painting.