Nikiforos Lytras (Greek, 1832-1904) A moment of prayer  31.5 x 18.5 cm.

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Lot 59P
Nikiforos Lytras
(Greek, 1832-1904)
A moment of prayer 31.5 x 18.5 cm.

Sold for £ 18,812 (US$ 24,507) inc. premium
Nikiforos Lytras (Greek, 1832-1904)
A moment of prayer
signed in Greek (lower left)
oil on panel
31.5 x 18.5 cm.

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Private collection, Athens.
    Bonhams, London, The Greek Sale, 26 November 2013, lot 16.
    Acquired from the above sale by the present owner.

    This wonderful vignette of church genre evoking a sentiment of pious respect, heart-felt religiosity and spiritual experience, showcases Lytras's amazing skill in the freer handling of form. The generalised rendering, diffused outlines and elimination of detail point to the artist's ability to shift the centre of gravity in Greek art from the descriptive to the purely pictorial, from the external approach to the painting's inner life. Forms are simplified, drawing loosens up and surfaces are handled with broader brushstrokes and heavier application of paint, while the human subjects are rendered with a deliberate indifference for their material substance. Immersed in the spiritual ambiance, the priest, the young woman and her two children surrender their individual specificity as something incongruous and incidental to take on a symbolic quality, honouring the divine. Humility and veneration endow the scene with a solemn grandeur accentuated by a limited palette of subdued hues that perfectly match the austerity of the Byzantine temple.

    Promoting a world of everlasting spiritual values vis-à-vis modernity's transient, fragmentary and largely superficial experience, this evocation of noble sentiment and archaic simplicity conveys to the secularised viewer a sense of nostalgic desire for more stable times, for an age-old, uncorrupted world of firm religious belief and pure spiritual feeling. Here, Lytras seems to concentrate upon both the virtues of the contemplative, moral life and the veneration of the Greek Orthodox tradition, which he believed was indispensable for the nation's survival and well being. "Lytras seeks to sustain the Greek people's adherence to their religious traditions, customs and ceremonial practices, and enhance their religious sentiment, well aware of its consoling powers in the face of life's adversities and sudden changes."1 As Lytras himself used to say "the customs of the Greek people brought independence and must be protected like the apple of one's eye."2

    1 X. Sochos, Greek Artists [in Greek], Leonis editions, Athens 1930, p. 25.
    2 Y. Kerofylas, Nikiforos Lytras, Patriarch of Modern Greek Painting [in Greek], Filippotis editions, Athens 1997, p. 57.
Contacts
Nikiforos Lytras (Greek, 1832-1904) A moment of prayer  31.5 x 18.5 cm.
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P Owned by a private individual

This lot is owned by a private individual. The right of return enjoyed by EU customers is not applicable.