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Byzantine Art

June 30, 2007

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It was the beautiful terrace that caught our eye, hidden down a long corridor filled with art. We were just wandering the streets one early morning when we just stumbled upon it quite by accident. We actually had noticed it from a distance a few times, but this time we decided to take a closer look as the streets were empty and  most people were still in bed. It seemed to call to us to sneak a closer peek.

You can not tell by my photos, but it was quite an enchanting nook close up that was as pretty as a picture. We had not realized that it was some ones private terrace until a sweet woman came out to
see what we wanted. She lived in this house with her husband and was just getting ready for the day preparing things in the attached gallery.

She was from Crete, but had lived in Australia for years, so spoke perfect English with a lovely lilt. She was very gracious and talked about her home and her gallery and we got on to the subject of her art as she was in process with her work in the studio within the gallery.

All of the art was lovely at Margaritas Fine Art and Jewellery Gallery, (her husband does jewelry and they have other interesting artists), but we were quite taken by her work. DaVinci, as an artist himself, always has questions about and interest in the process of a work of art. Thus we ended up with a spontaneous, full and detailed demonstration about the process of making Byzantine art like the old masters with twenty four carat gold.

Margarita had been an artist for many years when she decided to study this form of art here in Crete for three years and specialize in it. We were all intrigued with the detailed process and loved the results that she ended up with.

It starts with pine wood and cotton gauze is glued on with rabbit-hide glue. Then she puts thirty layers of rabbit-hide glue mixed with dehydrated gypsum before she draws and etches an image from Byzantine times. She then lays Armenian red clay mixed with the froth of egg white where the gold will be laid.

Twenty four karat gold pieces are “glued” on with raki (a local alcohol made of fermented grape skins), then burnished with an agate tool. The colors used for painting are earth minerals which are mixed with an egg-tempera medium. This is the traditional technique and we were all thrilled to meet this sweet woman and learn more about this technique. Her email is margaritadunn@yahoo.com if you would like to know more.

It was one of those magical, unplanned moments that happen when one travels and we felt a real connection with Margarita and her art. Since we have so little space, we do not usually buy things, but we could not resist buying one of these beautiful pieces and we decided on one with Archangel Michael and perhaps we will send away for another when we settle down to make a perfect pair. We will never forget this delightful, fortuitous encounter.

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