Epigonation of the Ecumenical Patriarch Païsios II (1744)

3 November 2011

Dimensions: 28.5 cm. each side.

The embroidery has been carried out in silver thread and high-quality fine silk on a red silk material. It is decorated with a host of small artificial pearls and, in the empty space in the centre, with small star-shaped points which give the impression of small stones.

On the diagonal axis of the epigonation, in a circle inscribed in a square, Christ as the Great High Priest (IC. XC.) is shown seated on an ornate throne, clothed in His sumptuous vestments. He holds an open gospel book in His left hand, and with His right He gives His blessing. He wears a mitre and has a nimbus; His long hair falls over His shoulders. At the four corners of the square are the symbols of the Evangelists. The square is edged with a broad border containing a flowering tendril. On the inner part of the square, on its four sides, the following inscription, in capitals and in twelve-syllable verse, appears: “THIS PICTURE IN RELIEF THE POSSESSION OF THE PASTOR OF BYZANTIUM KYR PAISIOS WAS REVERENTLY DECORATED AS HOLY MADE BY THE HAND OF THE INGENIOUS EVSEVEIA”. In the left-hand corner, with the symbol of the Evangelist Luke is the date: , ãAæM¢ã [= 1744].

The picture is entirely of Western inspiration. As is usual in the embroideries of Evsevia, the central scene has at least equal, if not inferior, status in comparison with the floral edgings, which tend to occupy an ever-increasing amount of space. The wonderfully worked hems with their wealth of conventional vegetal decoration and the manifestly secular mood of the work distance it from its sacred purpose and declare the attachment of the embroiderer to Western models and her dependence on them. We are presented here with an expression of rococo art, in which the decorative element has acquired an autonomy and organic nature of its own. Two other epigonatia in the Monastery with the same iconography and the same riot of decoration are inexpert copies of the work of Evsevia.

We know of other commissions of Païsios for sumptuous vestments from the workshop of Evsevia. The Ecumenical Patriarch Païsios II occupied the throne of Constantinople no fewer than four times. Twice on retiring he withdrew to the Kamariotissa Monastery on the island of Chalki, where he died in 1756. An energetic administrator, Païsios was also a patron of the arts and various high-quality vestments which bear his name as their owner have survived, most of them also bearing the name of Evsevia as the embroiderer. It seems that she worked on Chalki and at the Kamariotissa Monastery as the pupil of another experienced embroiderer – Mariora39. Evsevia work­ed on vestments of small dimensions – epigonatia, liturgical cuffs, appliqués for pallia – where the small surface permitted a demonstration of the perfection of her technique. Here she used a fine dark blue silk thread with other shades of blue. The faces are rendered in the manner of painting with a fine riza stitch, of which the direction changes with the flow of the design, with gradations of colour to produce the flesh background. In the depiction of the Great High Priest, the embroidery is in gold and silver wire, in karfoto and straight riza stitches, and a wealth of stones. She has also used stones on the decoration around the inscriptions. The tendrils of the floral decoration are in silver thread in relief embroidery, while the petals and pistils are in canetille.