Theofilos Hadjimichael (Greek, 1871-1934) Sailor and Euridice 81 x 80 cm.

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Lot 68P
Theofilos Hadjimichael
(Greek, 1871-1934)
Sailor and Euridice 81 x 80 cm.

£ 40,000 - 60,000
US$ 52,000 - 79,000
Theofilos Hadjimichael (Greek, 1871-1934)
Sailor and Euridice
inscribed in Greek with title (upper part)
natural pigments on canvas
81 x 80 cm.

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Constantinos Koumbas collection, Mytilene.
    Inherited from the above by the present owner.

    Literature
    Agiasos magazine, no. 146, January-February 2005, p. 14 (mentioned).
    A. Hadjiyannaki, Theofilos, K. Adam editions, Athens 2007, p. 60 (illustrated).

    This disarmingly seductive painting was most probably painted after 1926 when Theofilos, following a forty-year odyssey, returned to his native Mytilene, where he enjoyed a very creative and prolific period, during which he painted some of his best works.1 Here, a young girl in a European outfit holding an umbrella lends her hand to a moustachioed sailor who assists her in embarking a little boat, while their fiery glances seem to denote or foreshadow a romantic affair. The scene, lovingly filtered through the artist's rich imagination and imbued with a spirit of untutored simplicity, echoes the particular fondness of the island's inhabitants for casual revelry and their carefree attitude towards life, while the floral motifs—boldly coloured leaves and flowers—embellishing the frame reflect a particularly happy time in Theofilos' art and life.

    Although the subject has a strong contemporary feel and alludes to a western iconographic tradition, it is nonetheless handled in a fashion deeply rooted in Byzantine and folk tradition, emulating age-old models, such as the egg-shaped faces, the well-delineated features and the frontal approach. The full frontal posture, a defining feature of Byzantine icon painting, creates a powerful vertical thrust, which the artist knowingly balances by simply combining it with the strong horizontal defined by the sailing ship in the distant background. The scene is set against a typically Greek rocky landscape with olive trees, which goes back not only to the Byzantine world and the iconographic conventions of Virgin Mary shown recumbent in mountainous terrain outside the nativity cave, but harks even further back to the rocky outcrops with trees and plants captured in the magnificent wall paintings of prehistoric Santorini (compare Room Delta 2 at Akrotiri, Thera).

    Moreover, the amorous subject alludes not only to one of the artist's favourite medieval themes, Erotokritos and Aretoussa, but also to the ancient myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, showing how Theofilos, with his instinctive knowledge and keen sense of past, could easily migrate from one era to another, capturing bygone glory as a form of eternity constantly reborn in the present. It is this long and rich cultural heritage that makes him paint in a distinctly Greek manner. As the painter O. Kanellis once said, wherever in the world one sees a painting by Theofilos, they will instantly say: "This is no doubt a Greek work of art."2

    1 See N. Matsas, The Tale of Theofilos [in Greek], Estia publ., Athens 1978, p. 153.
    2 O. Kanellis, "The Painter Theofilos" [in Greek] in The Painter Theofilos in Mytilene, exhibition catalogue, Mytilene 1962.


    *Please note that due to Greek regulation, this lot cannot be exported from Greece and will be available for viewing and inspection in Athens either by appointment or during the Athens Preview, 26-29 March 2020. This work will be located in Athens during the auction.
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