John the Baptist
John the Baptist (from the Deesis tier)
This image of John the Baptist of the late fourteenth century reflects the compressed and angular hieratical style for which the Byzantine icon is known. That style differs from the patterned angularity characteristic of the Novgorod School. Also, in the case of representations of St. John the Baptist, it is instructive to compare the subtly elegant, elongated St. Johns of Novgorod with the dignified but unkempt figures of the Saint produced by the Byzantine artists.
By "Byzantine," we suggest that this "icon" (from the Greek "eikon:" image or representation) was painted somewhere in the eastern Roman Empire or by an artist from the Empire working in Russia. The capital of Byzantium was Constantinople (now Istanbul). As a small Christian outpost surrounded by Turks, this powerful but troubled city and empire survived for over one thousand years (between 330 and 1453 A.D.). The Orthodox Christian religion, the Cyrillic alphabet, and icon painting were all inherited by Russia from Byzantium.