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Modern knowledge of a Byzantine text now usually carried the Painter's manual or Hermeneia could be said to have begun in 1832. That such a text existed passed largely unnoticed until a French archeologist, traveling among the monasteries of Mount Athos, came across some painters at work in the monastery of Esphigmenou who showed him the text that they were using. A copy was made resulting in the first, albeit erroneous, publication in German in 1955. A correct edition, source unknown, was published in 1909, which has been accepted as the standard since then. This current English edition is from the 1909 Greek text and has attempted to be faithful not only in context but in appearance and layout.
We are fortunate to know as much about the man who compiled this Hermeneia which bears his name as we do. Dionysus was born about 1670 in the village of Fourna in central Greece. At sixteen, he went to Mount Athos, and from the early years of the century became established as a painter. In Karyes (on Mount Athos), he built a kellion (cell) and chapel dedicated to John the Baptist, which he himself painted. Between 1724-1728 he was back in his native village of fourna, and painted the interior of the church of the Transfiguration there. He is last known to have been alive in 1744.
The date of Dionysius' compilation of the Painter's Manual is probably of his second period on Mount Athos, that is, 1730-1734. While he is known to have painted icons in several locations, his stature as an artist must always have been exceeded by his other gifts, and the interest of these works lies in their relationship to the literary works of their creator.
The Painter's Manual of Dionysius of Fourna (ISBN: 1879038013 / 1-879038-01-3)
of Fourna Dionysios
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