Tyumen State University, Russia
The paper focuses on the study of sources and schemes of formation of Byzantine and Slavic miniatures, depicting the epoch of Pecheneg invasions to Byzantium and Rus’. We examine the miniatures from the unique Byzantine illuminated chronicle — Codex Matritensis Ioannis Skyllitzes, 12th century, and a number of Slavic illuminated manuscripts, in which the images go back to earlier originals, including Byzantine, — the Sylvester Collection, 14th century, the Radziwill (Konigsberg) Chronicle, 15th century, the Illustrated Chronicle of Ivan the Terrible, 16th century.
In the scientific literature these miniatures are traditionally considered from two points of view. Art critics are focusing on the analysis of style and semantics of miniatures, contents and typology of images, illustrative and compositional techniques of medieval artists. Historians often perceive these miniatures literally, ignoring their art nature, and often use them as illustrations of real history of Byzantine and Rus’ relations with Pechenegs, on their basis of various historical conclusions, including reconstruction of ethnographic shape and military tactics of Pechenegs, are drawn. But, as shown by special studies, the ethno-cultural differences, which are manifested in appearance, dress, weapons of “Others” (Rus’, Bulgarians, Pechenegs, “Scythians”, Tartars), were not significant for the creators of these miniatures; in most cases soldiers of the opposing sides are identical to each other. In addition, the images of Pechenegs in miniatures are deprived of opposition «Rhomaioi/Barbaroi» or “Rus’/Steppe”, which the illustrated texts contain.
On this basis, and also considering that these images are not synchronous to depicted events and reflect the vision of artists of a later period, the question of sources and process of formation of these miniatures in conjunction with the accompanying texts and the historical context is raised. On the example of Cod. Matritensis we would like to show that textual and illustrative series of battle scenes involving the Pechenegs and “Scythians” goes back to the oral tradition. It is suggested that creating “dynamic” iconographic composition of these episodes (see, e.g., Biblioteca Nacional, Vitr. 26–2, fol. 161–161v, 162b), the Byzantine artist of Cod. Matritensis relied on heroic songs or novels of epic nature, which were widely circulated in the Byzantine Empire during its entire history.