Back 7 - Next 

Art: Monasteries and Masters

Savina Monastery, near Herceg Novi - Copyright © by Alan Grant
Savina Monastery, near Herceg Novi

Despite the harshness of life in fifteenth century Zeta or Montenegro churches were built and communities of monks "produced liturgies, gospels, psalters and other devotional works notable for the quality of their illuminations."

The monasteries and churches themselves were generally decorated with frescoes but because of their destruction we do not know whether they were in the Byzantine tradition of the preceding Nemanjić era or were influenced by the separate tradition of the 'Greek' painters of the coast. As the Ottomans advanced, scriptoria were established further inland in monasteries around Bijelo Polje, Pljevlja and Morača. There copying and illumination were undertaken by some of the best painters of the day, continuing in some places even under Ottoman occupation.

Meanwhile on the coast and at Kotor in particular a rich cultural and artistic life continued. Goldsmiths from Kotor enjoyed considerable prestige, even in Italy. Painting flourished there with the famous school of 'Greek' painters whose blend of Byzantine iconography with later techniques was a feature of their style. At times saints venerated in both the Catholic and the Orthodox traditions were portrayed on the same church walls with parallel inscriptions in Old Slavonic and Latin, an indication of the degree of religious interpenetration at the time. The most famous of these fifteenth century painters of the domestic school was the master Lovro Dobričević of Kotor, whose work reflects the transitional stage between the Gothic and the Early Renaissance. One of the best known of Dobričević's work's, still extant, is the icon of Our Lady of the Rocks (Gospoda od Škrpjela), which adorns the altar of a little church sited on a small island in the Gulf of Kotor. Painters in Kotor worked with artists from abroad - from Venice, of course, but also from Dubrovnik -, and their work was sent as far afield as Prague.

[pp. 100, 101-2]

Realm of the Black Mountain: A History of Montenegro. 2007. [C.Hurst & Co]

 Back 7 - Next