The National Museum of Art of Romania
The Iconostasis of the Cotroceni Monastery
Artwork description
Iconostasis
Wood carving and tempera painting on wood
Wallachia
1682
Artwork location
Romanian Medieval Art Gallery, room 5
Sign language video
Sign language video

The Cotroceni monastery was built by Prince Şerban Cantacuzino (1678 - 1688) during the early years of his reign. The church was provided with an ample, impressive, richly adorned iconostasis that separated the altar from the nave where the sacrament of the holy Eucharist takes place. This is in line with a tradition codified in the 16th century to synthetically and symbolically represent a pictorial rendition of the history of divine revelation, Christian mystery, and the role of the Church and ordained priests in perpetuating it. The congregation contemplates what is actually performed behind the icon screen.

The supporting wall, carved by a local workshop, shows the Tree of Jesse. From the reclining figure of Jesse at the centre of the lower decorative tier surmounting the Royal Doors, grows a vine whose foliage spreads and swirls covering the entire wall. It tells of Jesus’ lineage from the House of David. Constantinos, a master painter formed in the post-Byzantine tradition, was commissioned the icons. His painting relies on strong, vibrating contrasts of red, blue and green that emphasize the glittering light of the gilded backgrounds.

In the lower part of the iconostasis are the Royal Doors symmetrically framed by four large icons. The last to the right shows the ‘Dormition of the Mother of God’, the patron feast specifically celebrated  at the Cotroceni church.

 

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