University of Sussex
Tantcheva-Burdge,_Elza.pdf (10.36 MB)

Colour and light in the seventeenth-century churches of Arbanassi, Bulgaria

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posted on 2023-06-08, 16:29 authored by Elza Tantcheva-Burdge
This thesis evaluates the use of colour and light in four seventeenth-century church interiors in Arbanassi, Bulgaria. The aim is to elucidate the appearance of the wall paintings in these churches in the context of the specific use of colour and in the lighting conditions pertaining when they were painted. The investigation both uses existing methods and also creates new scientifically-based ones to address questions concerning the extent to which colour and light were intentionally employed in ways evidenced by common patterns. The underlying hypothesis is that the decoration can be asserted as an embodiment of the ways colour and light were employed in Eastern Church decoration at that period in the Bulgarian province of the Ottoman Empire. In all the churches examined the artists used palettes restricted to a small but constant number of hues. I discuss how they used light and colour contrast to manipulate the appearance of the images. As present the interiors are lit by electric light. The investigation into the interior lighting reveals that the natural lighting is of an even but low intensity, allowing the artificial lighting to dominate. I devised a methodology to assess the effect of the original interior illumination on the appearance of the naves in the con-text of Professor Chalmers and others in the computer reconstruction of historic sites under their original illumination. By departing from conventional art-historical assessments, without merely accumulating technical data, my research challenges previously accepted presumptions and offers a means of revealing the optical complexity of the interiors. While this provides increased knowledge and understanding of the visual practices employed by the artists, the wider significance of this thesis lies in the way it bridges the existing division between science and the humanities and in its development of new methods for art historical research.


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  • Art History Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • phd


  • eng


University of Sussex

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