"Embroidered epitaphs in Ioannina, 18th and 19th centuries" Exhibition at the Silversmithing Museum in Ioannina

"Embroidered epitaphs in Ioannina, 18th and 19th centuries" Exhibition at the Silversmithing Museum in Ioannina

The Holy Metropolis of Ioannina, the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation (PIOP), and the Ephorate of Antiquities of Ioannina are jointly organising the touring exhibition "Embroidered epitaphs in Ioannina, 18th and 19th centuries", at the Silversmithing Museum. The exhibition presents for the first time selected epitaphs and showcases the unique significance of these ecclesiastical embroideries, their symbolism, imagery and style, but also information about the time when they were made. Digital applications and audio-visual presentations complement the exhibition and reveal the secrets of gold-work embroidery.

The epitaph is a chalice veil used in the procession of Christ's bier in the Good Friday ritual of the Orthodox Church. It is a sacred vestment that acquired a funerary character in the 14th century and is a development of the veil named aër and used to cover the bier. The embroideries are made and decorated using luxury materials (satin, velvet, silk thread, silver and gold-plated wire, spangles, semi-precious stones, pearls) which coupled with the time-consuming labour of the embroider increase considerably their cost. The offering of gold-work sacred vestments to churches or monasteries lent great prestige to the donors, who could be individuals or groups of the faithful.

Initially, the illustrative decoration of the epitaph was spare, projecting the theological content of the sacrifice on the cross, i.e. the Holy Eucharist, which in terms of imagery is conveyed by Jesus Christ in death. Gradually more elements were added, such as the Cross and the persons of the Epitaphios Threnos (the "Lamentation upon the Grave" by the Virgin Mary, the Myrrh-bearers, John the Apostle, others); by the 18th and 19th centuries, the images feature a greater number of people.

The embroidered epitaphs presented at the Silversmithing Museum are from this period; they are works of art and fine craftsmanship. It is thought they were made at workshops in Constantinople and Vienna, where the merchants and craftsmen of Ioannina used to place their orders at this time.

The exhibition, curated by the Byzantinologist and art historian Dr. Elena Papastavrou, is further enriched by a double-sided icon of the 14th century with an image of The Man of Sorrows and Virgin Hodegetria (Our Lady of the Way), and sacred vestments used in the procession of the bier.

The exhibition runs from April 20 to June 17, 2019

Silversmithing Museum
Acropolis of Its Kalé, Castle of Ioannina
GR‑45221 IoanninaΤel.: (+30) 26510 64065