Colors of Greece: The Art and Archaeology of Georg von Peschke


Carnival is celebrated in the weeks before the start of Lent. Skyros has a particularly striking Carnival celebration, one in which Peschke was clearly interested from an artistic and ethnographic standpoint, as Dorothy Burr Thompson's diary entry about Peschke's description of the celebrations indicates. In this painting, a masquerader dressed as the "Yeros" or "Old Man" is depicted, wearing an animal skin over his head and dozens of goat bells around his waist. Other masqueraders can be seen behind the "Yeros," both in this photograph that belonged to Peschke (and may well have been taken by him) and in the painting that is based upon it.

Carnival, Skyros
Carnival, Skyros, 1938
Funeral, Skyros
Funeral, Skyros, 1932

The Saturday of Souls (Psychosavvato, Ψυχοσάββατο) is a day for the commemoration of the dead held on several Saturdays a year, mostly before and during Lent. Peschke shows people gathered at a cemetery on Skyros to pray for the deceased.

Saturday of Souls (Psychosavvato), Skyros
Psychosavvato, Skyros, 1938
Saturday of Souls (Psychosavvato), Skyros
Psychosavvato, Skyros, 1938

Dorothy Burr Thompson photographed the same woman at her loom two years later.

Woman at Loom
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Woman at Loom, Skyros
Woman at Loom, Skyros, 1929

In 1927, Peschke planned to build and decorate a Byzantine-style chapel on Skyros. Influenced by the painter Fotis Kontoglou (1896–1965), Greek painters of the 1930s considered the art of icon painting a central component of modern art. Although Peschke never completed the plans, this triptych icon of St. George (the patron saint of Skyros) reflects his interests in Byzantine art. The unidentified figures flanking St. George may represent other local saints. The iconography of St. George slaying the dragon is often assumed to have developed from the earlier iconography of Bellerophon slaying the Chimaera; an example can be seen in Peschke’s painting of the Bellerophon mosaic in the publication of the Olynthus excavations. Peschke also used a dragon in his caricature "Battle with the Dragon." A label in the back of this icon associates the object with the Skyros chapter of the National Youth Organization (1936-1941), which included the Boy Scouts.

Icon of St. George and the Dragon
Icon of St. George and the Dragon