Maria Vassilaki, Professor in the History of Byzantine Art at the University of Thessaly, Greece; Scientific Advisor to the Benaki Museum, Athens
An icon recently acquired by the Cleveland Museum of Art makes the best introduction to this lecture. The icon shows the Virgin and Child and can be attributed to a Cretan painter working in fifteenth-century Venetian Crete. This lecture will explore the circumstances that prevailed on the island of Crete during its Venetian occupation (1210–1669) and transformed it into the most important artistic center of its time. It will discuss Cretan painters, the commissions they received from both Orthodox and Latins to paint icons either in the Byzantine or in the Western style, and the ways in which they started signing their icons. Finally it will focus on two leading artistic personalities of Candia (modern Iraklion): on Angelos Akotantos, who was active during the first half of the fifteenth century (died 1450), and on Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco), who was born (1541) and learned the art of painting in Crete before he moved to Italy (1567) and then to Spain.