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    STUDIA THEOLOGIA CATHOLICA - Issue no. 3 / 2008  

  Abstract:  Artistic Presences at the Wooden Church from Tău. Apparently solitary, discrete in its modest architectural appearance and almost kneeled under the weight of the tile roof, the old wooden church of Tău village (Roşia de Secaş commune, Alba County) never ceases to amaze us by the value and complexity of the pictorial ensemble which it accumulated along time. Subject of thorough researches carried out between the 70’s and 80’s of the last century by Ioana Cristache-Panait and very recently by Ioana Rustoiu, the most ardent questions that it raised either found their answer, or seemed difficult to clear up, because of lack of information. A few among these were resolved following an attempt of recuperating the activity of the painters from Feisa, though belated to may be exploited within the material that was dedicated to them, material that was published recently. Within this context, we will try to complete the picture of an exceptional monument, after, beforehand, we will proceed to a sketchy presentation of the already stated conclusions. The building was erected somewhere in the XVIIIth century, without being able to state whether year 1780, noted by the chronicle of the parish, refers to the moment of building or only just to a restoration of larger proportions, occasion on which the church would have also been painted. Inscription „Popa Radu 1820” from the leg of the altar table was meant, for sure, to recall only an important transformation, which assumed the extention towards west of the nave and its superelevation with a belfry to which, from safety reasons, was renounced in 1921. The pictorial decoration was made in several stages. In a relative chronological order, the building was visited by painters Ivan from Răşinari, to whom were attributed the seven icons preserved from the church legacy, and dated in the first half of the XVIIIth century, then by an anonymous painter to whom the nave’s painting is owed, totally destroyed; probably he also painted the upper part of the catapetasma, the intrados and its back; between 1822-1829 there may be noted a third artistic presence in Tău, the painters Savu and Simion Poienaru from Laz definetly being the authors of the painting from the altar, the imperial doors, Jesus Christ on the cross, with St. John on the left and Holy Virgin on the right, and the apostles’ frieze from the catapetasma also being their creation. From the perspective of some collateral preoccupations, which proposed the understanding of the artistic context in which Iacov Zugravul from Răşinari formed and who was regarded as founder of the painting school from Feisa, the group of icons from Tău attributed to Ivan from Răşinari were regarded as a source of some very important answers. But their study stopped on the analysis of those dedicated to the Holy Virgin and the Saviour, in which have been discovered plenty signs to hastly conclude that Popa Ivan from Răşinari was one of the masters next to whom Iacov was apprentice. Intention to realize a thorough study on this subject revealed unexpected aspects, which, even if they don’t necessarily bring nearer Ivan to Iacov, they bring Tău very closely to the family of the later. Thus, within the group of the seven icons all attributed initially to Ivan from Răşinari was proved that one was painted in reality by Gheorghe, Iacov’s son, a theme that we haven’t discovered in his creation, even if the represented subject is exactly his omonymous saint. Then, the characters from the scene of the Last Supper from the intrados of the eastern tympanun evidence striking similarities with the figures from the creations of Stan, Iacov’s brother, other objects, overlooked until now, as well as a base cross ascribable to Vasile Band and a banner made by one of the last painter masters from Feisa, indicating a constant and long relationship with the artistic centre from the valley of Târnava Mică. Then we proceed to the analyzation of each piece, hoping that our argumentation in favor of these attributions may be considered plausible enough to end, at the church from Tău, at least the issue concerning the artistic presences. With respect to the indexed objects as documents capable to contribute at least to nuances if not to the explanation of the unknown from the church historiography and of the Translvanian Romanians’ art, we notice that the old church from Tău village is the depository of a very precious informational ensemble. Thus, all the six icons of Ivan from Răşinari offer arguments for a relation master-apprentice between him and Iacov from Răşinari. The colour combination, the patterns after which the characters are represented, certain clichés in the execution manner are common and easy to see and even is a matter of elements to be found within the creation of all active painters in the first decades of the XVIIIth century, Ivan himself learning the trade next to some of these, and Iacov also perfected around them, the similarities that can be noticed between the creations of the two painters from Răşinari justify through much more than the principles of artistic expression of the Brancovan school. We didn’t succeed to identify on what bases Vasile Drăguţ’s affirmation according which priest Radu, the father of painters Iacov and Stan was „himself recognized as a painter”, but the common origin from Răşinari of Ivan and Iacov may hide even kinship, in this case of uncle and nephew and, in the absence from the documents of priest Radu, fact that assumes a premature disappearance, even Ivan taking over the burdens of raising and educating the sons of his brother; who, being also motivated by their extraordinary talent, would have taken them with him on the sites where he worked, as well as to the south of the Carpathians, where he seemed to have been taken there by other reasons than those concerning the painting skill. Another similarity between the two is to be assumed even only by the fact that they shared the same profession and came from the same community; this is a valid situation also for Nistor Dascălul, the other painter from Răşinari, collaborator of Popa Ivan, with whose creation Iacov’s work also proves similarities, as well as for Stan, Iacov’s brother, a thorough study of his creation being able to bring supplementary explanations also on the formation of the masters who guided the sons of priest Radu. To what extent may contribute the group of icons and attribution of painting from the XVIIIth century to elucidating the oldness of the church’s construction is a question whose answer must be somehow harmonized with that year 1780 noted in the parish chronicle. Given the close ties of kinship between painters Stan and Gheorghe, we could suspect a simultaneous presence of them in Tău, Gheorghe arriving here rather with the intention to meet again with his uncle, occasion on which the locals ordered to the famous artist the realization of some new icons bearing the patron of the church. This event could have taken place in 1780, the year of painting, which remained in collective memory „helped” very probably also by the rotive in the church porch today lost, but it ended by being confused with that of building the church. We suspect this confusion on the basis of the following considerent: it seems unnatural that the group of six icons made by Ivan from Răşinari not to contain also the icon bearing the patron of the church or exactly that to have deteriorated to such an extent to necessitate the replacement or to have disappeared meanwhile. Moreover, during the years when Ioana Cristache-Panait visited the church, four of them still embellished the iconostasis, while the twins of the imperial icons, together with the icon of Saint George were placed in pronaos. The patron of the church, very rare among our old churches, and the peripheral place destined precisely to the icon that represented him determine us believe, that initially, the church had another dedication, that of the Saint Archangels, otherwise the most frequent in the actual area of Alba and Mureş Counties, the old icon bearing the patron of the church remaining further on at its place on the iconostasis. The change of the church’s patron might have happened exactly in that year 1780, when the church needed a new dedication, after the ample works of embellishment it suffered, the event being understood as a (re)foundation, in the circumstances in which a church must have existed in the village also before this date, the most eloquent proof being exactly the icons of Ivan from Răşinari. From another point of view, somehow it becomes difficult to understand why, only 40 years after the execution, the painting of Stan necessitated, in the altar, a renovation of such proportions that it was resorted to a repainting of the walls, including the upper part from the back of the catapetasma, on which the frieze of the Apostles was also remade. A catastrophe – a collapse or fire – are also more difficult to accept, because the scenes from above remained intact, as those from the arch of the apse and that from the intrados of the tympanum, and the base structure of the iconostasis neither seems to have been affected. Should it be only a whim of the priest that shepherded during those years? Should there have been necessary the replacement of the beams from the altar? Might these parts remain unpainted ever since 1780? Ioana Cristache-Panait assumed a repainting, attributing to Savu Poienaru only the refreshing of the old painting. Iona Rustoiu didn’t notice a superposition of the pictorial layers, attributing exclusively to the painters from Laz the execution of the components that do not belong to the XVIIIth century. As the actual degradation state of the construction doesn’t allow anymore observations to explain what happened, the motivation of inviting the Poienars’ in Tău is condemned to remain a mistery. A retrospective of the last century existence of the wooden church from Tău detects the contradiction between the poverty of those who lived in a period with infinite more opportunities than their ancestors from the XVIIIth-XIXth centuries, but who were only capable to assist helpless to the ruin of the building, and the predecessors’ efforts, who invited in Tău some of the best painters of time, emblematic figures of the Brancovan and post-Brancovan art. Because, from a statistical perspective, the church from Tău occupies the first place regarding the quantity of the works made by Popa Ivan from Răşinari, being, at the level of actual knowledge, the most important depositary of his work. The same position confers the icon made by Gheorghe Zugravul as long it will remain the only representation of Saint George known from his creation, and if attribution to Stan Zugravul of the decoration of the upper part of the catapetasma and of the Holy Trinity image is correct, the church from Tău offers another reason to regard it as one of the most important monuments of religious art from throughout the Alba County. With such a record, the discrete monument from Tău gets new dimensions, contributing decisively to unravelling some important pages from the Transylvanian Romanian art.

Key words: church, painter, Popa Ivan from Răşinari, Stan from Răşinari, Iacov Zugravul, Gheorghe the son of Iacov, mural painting, icon, Acmariu, Savu Poienaru, Simion Poienaru, Laz, painting centre, Sibiel, Tău.
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