Stole of Zefar, 1751

3 November 2011

Dimensions: length: 146.5 cm., intervals; 26 cm., floral divisions: 12 cm., inscription: 21 cm.

The section of the stole around the neck is cut in a circle. The two bands which descend from the neck are fastened at intervals with buttons and end in a horizontal band on which the following inscription, in capitals, can be read: “EMBROIDERED BY THE DEACON-MONK CHRISTO­PHOROS ZEFAR 1751”.

The panels, four in two lines, are separated by floral decoration, which also surrounds the inscription. On these panels hierarchs are depicted in pairs. They are shown under arches which are supported on small columns which terminate in anthemia. The figures are shown full-face, at full length and wearing their vestments and pallia, on which the crosses are embroidered in black silk. In their left hand they hold the gospel book, closed, while with their right they give their blessing. Their dalmatics and mitres are embroidered in gold wire, while the sticharia (albs), the pallia, the epigonatia, and the Gospel books are in silver. The background is to a large extent also embroidered in gold, except for the ground, which is in silver.

Zefar or Zefarovic or Zefarovikis was a well-known 18th-century artist-icon-painter, engraver, and embroiderer. He was born in the late 17th century in the area around Doïrani, and died in Russia in 1753. In his early years he lived in Macedonia and learnt painting in a Greek environment, in Thessaloniki or on Mount Athos. He was totally ignorant of the literary language of Serbia and the Slavonic of the Church, while he wrote all his correspondence and his will in Greek. As an icon-painter, he executed wall-paintings in churches in Serbia and Hungary. As an embroiderer, he equipped many of the monasteries of Greece, Serbia, and Romania, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Sinai Monastery, and many Orthodox churches with luxurious vestments27. But his main oeuvre was in copper engraving. As an engraver, he produced icons for the places of pilgrimage of Orthodoxy; these were paid for by Greek “most honourable nobles”, chiefly from Kozani and Moschopoli. He also produced engravings for Vatopaidi: the Monas­tery, Our Lady of Vatopaidi, the Skete of St Dem­etrius, the Holy Girdle28. This indefatigable deacon-monk was closely associated with the Church of Serbia and the Serb Archbishop Arsenios IV, Metropolitan of Karlowitz, whose ambition it was, in the early 18th century, to gather under the aegis of Austria the enslaved peoples of the Balkans. For this reason, Zefar recorded on almost all his works his original title of “the humble painter of the Illyrian Serbs”.

As to his embroideries, of which there are so many, the question remains of whether they were in fact the works of his own hands, since they bear the inscription “embroidered by the deacon-monk Christophoros Zefar”, or whether perhaps he commissioned them from workshops in Vienna.