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Restoration, conservation and enhancement of monuments / Exhibitions

Conservation and exhibition of icons from the Black Sea region of Bulgaria (2006-2012)

In conjunction with the National Art Gallery of Sofia, responsible for the Museum of Icons of the Crypt in the church of Alexander Niefski, in 2006  EKBMM and MBP signed  a co-operation agreement for the conservation and exhibition of fifty four (54) icons from the cities Nessebar, Sozopol, Ahtopol, Varna and Burgas on the bulgarian coast of the Black Sea. In the first phase of the project, in 2007 , 12 Byzantine icons were transported from Sofia to the laboratories of the Museum of Byzantine Culture. The icons underwent a complete diagnostic examination, with non destructive methods, for 3 months. In the work participated trainee and professional Bulgarian conservators. The conservation of the icons continued in the National Art Gallery of Sofia funded by the A.G. Levendis Foundation. The program concluded with the exhibition of the icons in the Museum of Byzantine Culture, which was inaugurated in November 26, 2011 and ended in March 4, 2012.

The 52 icons presented in this exhibition originate from Varna, Nesebar, Sozopol, Ahtopol and Tsarevo on the bulgarian coast of the Black Sea, and also from the mountainous village Brashlyan, on Aimos (Strantza). They are ancient cities, founded by the Ions in 7th century BC, except from the Doric-founded Messemvria (Nessebar), founded one century later. The culture of the peoples around the Black Sea was formed after the decisive influence of the ancient Greek and the byzantine culture, with the christenization of the slavic peoples and the creation of the cyrillic alphabet.

The cities on the western coast of the Black Sea acquired a strategic importance for the Byzantine empire, because they secured the defense of Constantinople from the raids of the peoples coming from the north. After the founding of the Bulgarian kingdom in 681, the cities of the thracian coasts came within the boundaries either of the Byzantine empire or the Bulgarian state. However, even when under bulgarian rule, the byzantine political and administrative structure of the cities -as their cultural orientation - retained towards Constantinople. Also, these cities were the the gates of the area to the sea and secured the commercial routes up until the early 20th century.

The icons presented at the exhibition date from the 11th-12th century to 1873. The iconographic and artistic elements as well as the names of the holy faces they depict, reveal their influences from the art of Constantinople and the predominant currents of postbyzantine painting. Also, the important information that comes from the icons' epigraphs speak the identity of the donors and the painters as well as the societies from which they originate.

The illuminating exhibition catalogue is written by Greek and Bulgarian academics and art historians. The publication of the exhibition was realized by a generous fund of Leventis Foundation and the contribution of EKBMM and KAPON editions.