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Exhibit of July 2022: Ceramic Icon of St. Theodore, 10th c. AD

07/2022

During the Early Medieval period, the city of Veliki Preslav emerged as the embodiment of state power. This lavish centre became the second Bulgarian capital for the next eight decades. It stood as a milestone in forming new models and trends, which would begin to define early Bulgarian Christian culture.

The Preslav painted white ware is undoubtedly one of the highest achievements of medieval Bulgarian art, a brilliant expression of the Second Bulgarian capital’s cultural zenith in the late 9th and 10th centuries. Ceramic workshops specialized in the production of decorative tiles developed in the nearby monasteries to fit the needs of the large-scale constructions of palaces and churches. The height of their achievement is the production of ceramic icons of varying sizes. Larger portraits were elaborately comprised of multiple tiles. The masterpiece is the icon of St. Theodore from the monastery of “St. Panteleimon”. The find was discovered during excavations led by Yurdan Gospodinov in 1909. It came from the ruins of a series of premises, built in proximity to a church in the region of Patleina, located only 2 kilometres southeast of the capital. Alongside the icon, the researchers discovered clay tiles with an inscription of Greek capital letters. From them, the name of the saint was reconstructed: “St. Theodore” (Stratelates or Tyron).

The saint bust is depicted frontally in life-sized height and formed from several square ceramic tiles (12 x 12 cm). The drawing is made by dark black outline, red slip and paint in ochre yellow and brown. The glazes are transparent and dark-violet. The saint image is strict and awe-inspiring, with a pale complexion, hollow cheekbones and large almond-shaped eyes. His beard is thick and pointed, his hair short, slightly curled. The head is surrounded by a circular ochre-yellow halo. The figure is dressed with a particular dark folded garment, which some researchers describe as a mantle fastened on the shoulder with a fibula. Under the garment, the left shoulder exhibits a second cloth, probably a military tunic.

Bibliography:

Грозданова, Горянова 2019: Г. Грозданова, Сн. Горянова (съст.). До портите на княжеския двор. Съкровища от Велики Преслав. – Национален археологически институт с музей – София. Каталози, том ΧV. София, 2019.

Чернева и др. 2015: Д. Чернева, С. Нейкова, Ив. Енева, Л. Бумбалова. Икона на св. Теодор. Реставрация и технологична експертиза на керамична икона от X в. София, 2015.