Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Theodhor Sina Grundo of Voskopoja: 18th Century Founder of Albanian Theological Art

>Author: Nedia Thellimi

Voskopoja (Albania) was an important center that remains to this day as an abundant storehouse of art works by artists, both known and unknown. Studies show that some of Albania's most distinguished artists had created works in Voskopoja including Anton Shipska (in the church of Saint Prodhon), David Selenica and his apprentices, Kristo and Konstandini (Saint Koll), Konstandin and Athanas Zografi (various churches),the Agrafan painters - Teodori, Anagnosti and Steriani (Saint Thanasi), and Jeremanaka Kostandini with his valuable icons (1703). How many artists rendered their creations in the 36 small and large churches of Voskopoja? There is no doubt that the number of painters is greater than those cited above.

All the artists who worked in Voskopoja, both Albanians and foreigners, devoted their lives and artistic endeavors to provide the churches with magnificent paintings and icons. Alas, time and mother nature have taken their toll by burying the hard labors and talent of the artists under church ruins. I was recently able to collect some data gleaned from the writings of a distinguished German Balkanologist who had visited Albania and Voskopoja on September 3, 1889, about a very talented but little known Albanian artist. The German visitor stated that when he visited the church ofSaint Prodhon , he saw an amazing wood carving of major artistic value that was created by the Albanian artist, Theodhor Sina Grundo , who was not only a sculptor, but also a fresco painter and engraver. Because the German was in Voskopoja for only a brief period, it is understandable that he was unable to explore all of Grundo's works

(see G .Vaigand-Dei arumunen-Leipsikg, 1895, pg 106).

The artistic works of Theodhor Sina Grundo are also found in Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, and, perhaps, elsewhere. Not far from Budapest there is an island called Cepel where all the frescos in the church are painted by Grundo (1765). It is interesting that along with a painting of Saint Naum, he painted another Albanian saint, Saint Nikodimin, from Vithkuq (Albania). Grundo's works also include two icons of tremendous artistic value - one inVesherbal, the other in Beograd (1773).

When Professor Dhimiter Shuteriqi went to Hungary for a short visit in 1957, he saw the works of Grundo in the village of Rockovo, 30 kilometers away from Budapest in a church named Saint Mary Teotokoss. There, he discovered paintings signed by Grundo in 1771. Researchers say that Grundo contributed to other churches as well including churches across the Sava and Danube rivers in Serbia and Hungary (see Macedonian Saints by Grozdonov ). Grozdonov states that Grundo is the founder of Albanian Theological Art.

Excerpted from Nje Piktor Pak i Njohur i Shekullit te XVIII Nga Voskopja. (A Little-known 18th Century Artist from Voskopoja) by Nedia Thellimi, Koha Jone, Kor‡e, Albania, 1995. Submitted by Victor Emanoil. English translation by Marinella Misho.


At December 16, 2009 at 8:25 PM , Blogger Van Christo said...

While I haven't been able to read your blog on a regular basis, when I do-it's a joy to learn about such a wide range of topics covering artistic, cultural, and political issues. Most recently, this was brought to my attention, when I read your mouth watering Elli's veal or chicken with walnuts (Gjelle me Arra te Ellil) recipe. I can't wait to try it. What timing given the holiday season.

I'd also like to share with you and your readers that I found your piece on the Theological artist extremely informative. Upon reading it, I did further research on Voskopoja and wrote my first cousin in Korce. He told me that Voskopoja was only about thirty minutes from Korce, and I believe there's a new road built. I've been thinking of going to an Arts Festival which will be held in Korce in the spring. Perhaps this will inspire me to actually do it.

Regarding another blog you posted which clarified the need to distinguish between terms such as refugee and immigrant, etc., I experienced the same situation as an ESL or EFL teacher. This included teaching international students as well. My experience led to writing a story called, "Falling in Love with Wisconsin." It focused on an Albanian who visited Wisconsin and noticed a bumper sticker on a car. At the time, the title, referred to our state slogan. While the piece was fictional, it served as a good tool to teach my Hmong students who were refugees. I developed the theme of the Albanian because I wanted to illustrate,while experiences with ethnic groups are different, there is also a commonality. Plus, I wanted to demonstrate contrasts and comparisons of terms and also develop literature that would build to self-esteem.

When I wrote the story for Refugee Concerns,(mid 1990s)there had been no educational materials available for both of these groups. In fact, when I started in this field, often older students were handed very juvenile materials to learn beginning English. Actually, I'm curious to know if Albanian immigrants, who've come to the U.S. have appropriate educational materials that discuss their ethnic background?

Barbara Tzetzo Gosch


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