The invisible side of icons. Study of the wooden frames of Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons

How were Byzantine icons made? What kind of timber and what tools did the craftspersons use? Can we trace links between making technique and painting style?

These are some of the questions addressed by Mr. Andras Sampatakos (art conservator and member of the Research Laboratory Cult Lab of the University of West Attica), who has been studying the wooden frames of Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons in the museum collection since 2019.

The study is part of Mr Sampatatkos’ research for his doctoral thesis at the National Technical University of Athens. The researcher examined the traces left at the back side of icons and tries to reconstruct the shape of tool and the successive stages of the manufacturing process. Through the study of a large sample (more than 100 icons so far) he is trying to related making techniques with painting styles, hoping to be able to identify individual workshops. In addition, he examines the pathology of wooden frames and early cases of conservation and restoration that have been applied in the icons.