(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Exhibitions >>
|(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov's Participation in the Second TEII Exhibition (1983)
in His Diary and Photographs
Text: Hannelore Fobo, 2021
Chapter 5: The Peterhof Book of Hours and The Homilies of Gregory
previous page: Chapter 4: Works on paper: The Peterhof Book of Hours (1982)
next page: Chapter 6: Paintings: landscapes from the Russian Period (1981)
Table of contents: see bottom of page >>
Chapter 5: The Peterhof Book of Hours and The Homilies of Gregory
With some exceptions – among them two landscapes more >> – the 1982 folios from Evgenij Kozlov's Peterhof Book of Hours series display intricate figurative compositions – narrations integrating elements of plants, buildings and (background) landscapes. These elements can be perceived not only as symbols, but as ornaments, too. Their twofold function, in conjunction with the primary function of script (albeit printed), allows us to place these works into the category of illuminated manuscripts, where such works are called full-page miniatures. Here, the term ‘miniature’ renders the concept of what Kozlov defined as ‘paintings’ in his diary: they are paintings carried out in a small format.
Other features supporting this proposition are Kozlov’s painterly style, combining large brushstrokes with thin elongated brushstrokes of contrasting colours (E-E-182015, ‘Путник / Wanderer’), as well as the use of silver and, to a lesser extent, of gold (E-E-182010, ‘People Are Equal to Themselves’). We find both features in medieval illuminated manuscripts, where the first is used to create volume, for instance in clothing, and the second to highlight sacredness.
It therefore makes sense to subsume these works under the general heading The Book of Hours, like the cycle from 2005, but with the additional attribute ‘Peterhof’, the place where E-E Kozlov created them – The Peterhof Book of Hours.
Regarding their level of sophistication, the Paris Gregory from the late ninth century comes to mind, though it is not a book of hours, but a book of sermons or homilies. It contains forty-six full-page illustrations or miniatures relating to the sermons of Gregory of Nazianus (Gregory the Theologian), a 4th-century Archbishop of Constantinople Wikipedia >>. This is why it is also called The Homilies of Gregory, while Paris Gregory Wikipedia >> refers to the place where it has been kept for the last four hundred years, the National Library of France or Bibliothèque nationale de France.
The similarites between The Peterhof Book of Hours and the Paris Gregory can best be noted in specific fragments from the illustrations, for instance when comparing the heads of two female figures in E-E182009 and Folio 438v, respectively (see captions above). But as stated in the previous chapter, Kozlov did not set himself a task to illustrate the content of the pages. Rather, he took inspiration from certain words which had no other merits than to stand at the end of the page, and interpretated them freely. Besides, while the authors of the miniatures for the Homilies of Gregory were fully familiar with biblical episodes, the same cannot be said about a young Soviet citizen living under the dogma of Marxism-Leninism, although Evgenij Kozlov had seen orthodox icons not only in museums: several of his friends collected or traded them.
The similarities between The Peterhof Book of Hours and the Paris Gregory, which are obvious to me, concern the sublime expressiveness which spiritual worlds found in works of art separated by exactly eleven centuries: the Paris Gregory was created between late 879 and 883, while Evgenij Kozlov painted his series of works in 1982.
Yet the genesis of these works couldn't have been more different. The Homilies of Gregory ‘was commissioned as a gift for emperor Basil I by the Patriarch of Constantinople Photios I, to both celebrate the triumph of Orthodoxy and to praise the reign of Basil I’ (Wikipedia >>); several artists contributed to this important gift. Kozlov retrieved a book of hours in 1981 in an abandoned house in the Russian countryside, near the dilapidated church of Sintsovo (see diary p. 3-25 >>), one of many Russian churches bearing witness to the atheist communist ideology. No one expected him to use the book for his art, let alone commissioned such works from him.
On the other hand, just as the Homilies of Gregory followed a period of Byzantine Iconoclasm – thus celebrating the triumph of Orthodoxy – Kozlov's Book of Hours followed a period of Communist Iconoclasm, more exactly, anticipated its end. (Whether they are also an expression of the triumph of spirituality over materialism, is a different question, and the answer depends on whether materialism can be or should be defeated at all.)
But on a more tangible level, similarites concern postures and facial expressions of figures, the way they interact with each other, the arrangement of foreground and background elements, etc. For example, like the Homilies of Gregory folios, all of Kozlov's miniatures are set in (painted) frames.
Kozlov didn't use gold for framing his compositions, but instead, several of his works are set in a large light brown or dark brown frame, which creates an effect similar to gold. As a matter of fact, the frame of ‘Sunshine in the North’ (E-E-182019) is sparkled with tiny dots of gold.
What is more, a feature typical for the Homilies of Gregory is also present in Kozlov's miniatures: a top / bottom page division consisting of framed sections with different illustrations (episodes) for each section. Speaking in general terms, similarities concern colours, style and compositional features.
I decided to establish them in a more systematic way, juxtaposing folios from (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov’s Peterhof Book of Hours to folios from the Homilies of Gregory. Although the folios from the Homilies of Gregory are slightly larger larger than those from the Peterhof Book of Hours – 43.5 x 30 cm as compared to 34 x 22.5cm – the width to height ratio is almost the same, 1.5 to 1, which makes it easy to create tables.
Establishing likenesses is a tricky business, alll the more so because Kozlov's works are no copies of the Homilies of Gregory – and he certainly had no knowledge of these miniatures. Arranging the works in pairs according to the criteria described above, I was, however, surprised that for most of Kozlov's works, I found a match in the Homilies of Gregory.
It goes without saying that proceeding in an associative – aesthetic – manner, as I did, isn't the same as solving mathematical equations. Some of these pairs might relate to each other more closely than others, and sometimes only certain details are congruent. For example, Folio 3r and E-E 182011 display similar elements of architecture in similar compositions, which makes them match perfectly, while E-E-182013 (‘Watch’) and the upper left part of Folio 196v (the resurrection of Lazarus) present an example for a partial match, of a full page with an episode or section from another page.
E-E-182019 and Folio Br each present a group of three figures against an (almost) monochrome background, but the group of figures are quite different, and the background colour is also different. Kozlov‘s figures, set against a white and blue background formed of sky, snow and ice, are ice fishing; the title of the work is ‘Sunshine in the North’. Folio Br sees Empress Eudokia flanked by her sons Leo and Alexander on a parchment covered with gold leaf. Perhaps this juxtaposition does not seem compelling when considering purely formal grounds. But when I look at this pair of works, they appear to me like an image and its counter-image, and to combine them seems right.
For now, I have created seventeen such pairs. They include fifteen out of the twenty-four miniatures from the Peterhof Book of Hours series. Two of Kozlov's compositions and two folios from the Paris Gregory offer multiple links.
Considering those 1100 years that separate the Peterhof Book of Hours and The Homilies of Gregory, I found the results quite impressive and decided to present them without further comments – as a first step to discuss a present-day form of religiousness transcending ideologies and dogmata.
Information about the Paris Gregory is on Wikipedia external link >>, where all forty-six illustrations are available, reproduced from the Bibliothèque nationale de France. I actually downloaded the pictures from Wikipedia, but provided the captions with links to the original pages on the website of the Bibliothèque nationale de France external link >>, which displays a total of 953 views (book cover and pages recto and verso). Likewise, the captions (in French) are taken from the BnF website see BnF, Archive et manuscrit >>; they are translations from Leslie Brubaker’s 1999 publication Vision and Meaning in Ninth-Century Byzantium: Image as Exegesis in the Homilies of Gregory of Nazianzus (Cambirdge University). Page references to the reproductions of folios in Brubaker’s book are on the BnF website.
Reproductions of E-E Kozlov's works are from different sources and of different quality. Some, like E-E-182008 and E-E 182009, are direct scans and may serve as a reference for the background colour of the paper. Other reproductions are digital pictures and scans from slides or colour prints. In most cases, their colours have been corrected.
Research / text / layout: Hannelore Fobo, June / July 2021
Uploaded 18 July 2021