Theophan the Greek

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Theophan the Greek, also Theophanes the Greek, (Russian: Феофан Грек, Greek: Θεοφάνης), was one of the greatest iconographers of the Church of Russia. He lived in the fourteenth century. He also is noted as a teacher and mentor of the renowned iconographer Andrei Rublev.


Theophan was of Greek origin. He was born in Constantinople about the year 1340. Little is known of his early life, although he probably learned and developed his art in Constantinople and may have worked there and in the Crimea. In 1370, he arrived in Novgorod where he worked for many years. In Novgorod he painted frescos in over forty churches of the city, most of which have not survived. Theophan was an accomplished painter. He has been noted for his style of painting from inspiration and not copying from prototypes.

His frescos survive now only in the Church of Our Savior of the Transfiguration-in-Elijah Street in Novgorod. His style is considered unsurpassed in expression achieved by almost mono-colored painting. His paintings have great intensity that captures the spiritual essence of each figure. Among the best preserved images in the church are the magnificent image of the Pantocrator in the dome, the frescos of the Forefathers Noah, Melzhizedek and Seth, and the panel icon of the Old Testament Trinity.

Theophan’s fresco of the Holy Trinity in the Church of the Transfiguration in Novgorod

In 1395, he moved to Moscow where he painted in the Church of the Nativity of Mary in the Kremlin. In 1399, he worked on the frescos of an earlier structure of the Cathedral of Archangel Michael in the Kremlin. In 1405, he painted the frescos of an earlier Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Kremlin in a team with Andrei Rublev and Prokhor of Gorodets.

Theophon is noted to have painted panel icons, but in recent academic debate his authorship of many of these icons have been questioned. He reposed in the Lord in the year 1408.