The great painters of the
15th c. had a significant contribution to the establishment of the specific
characteristics of the Cretan icon-painting. The archetypes they formatted
inspired the generations that followed. During the second half of the 15th c. prevailed
the artistic personality of the painter Andreas Ritzos, who was strongly
influenced by Angelos Akotantos. Among the important painters were Andreas
Pavias, Nikolaos Tzafouris and Nikolaos Ritzos, son of Andreas. Their works
were influenced by the late Palaeologan Art, with sparse elements from the
Italian Art of the 14th-15th c.
The large diffusion of icons and the fame of the Cretan painters increased the demand for their works. Over a hundred painters, organized in unions, lived and worked in Candia. Among their clients were the great orthodox and catholic monasteries, noble families, wealthy merchants and bourgeois. Depending on the dogma and the artistic preferences of the client they produced works executed in the Byzantine style (maniera bizantina) or the Italian style (maniera italiana). The large diffusion of the icons had its own impact to the decline of the wall-painting, which lost its artistic inspiration after the Fall of Constantinople.
Among the 16th c. painters, Theophanes and Euphrosynos continued to reproduce the archetypes established by Angelos. It was in this high-quality artistic environment of Candia that a painter of a world-wide radiance, Domenikos Thetokopoulos, later known as El Greco, grown up. The few surviving examples of his early work in Crete, such as the Dormition of the Virgin in Syros and the icon of St. Luke painting the Virgin, testify the impact of the archetypes established by Angelos on the painting of the second half of the 16th c. A.D.
This influence was expanded on most of the painters of the second half of the 16th c. Nevertheless, the famous painters George Klontzas and Michael Damaskenos, strongly influenced by the trends of the Italian mannerism, decided to experiment on new ways of representing religious themes, definitely closer to the renaissance painting.
Around 1600 the Cretan painters returned once more to the 15th c. archetypes. The Italian influence was reduced and the western patterns were transformed into byzantine schemes. The technique of the icons retained a high level but became more restrained. Distinguished painters of the period were Jeremiah Palladas and the two painters signing under the name Emmanouel Lambardos (second half of the 16th / second half of the 17th c. A.D.). But the most famous painters are Emmanouel Tzane Bounialis from Rethymnon (1610-1690) and Theodore Poulakis from Chania (1622-1692). This amazing miniaturist merged the western tendencies with influences from the work of Klontzas and Damaskenos.
The Fall of Candia into the hands of the Ottomans in 1669 had abruptly interrupted the cultural flourish of the city. Masters and works of art were transferred to the Ionian Islands and Venice. Working abroad, the Cretan painters managed to preserve their artistic heritage and fame. In hard conditions, the orthodox tradition survived in the city of Heraklion (renamed then as Megalo Kastro) in the artistic environment of the Sinaitic dependency of St. Mathew, which was the only orthodox church of the town until the reconstitution of the orthodox bishopric in the church of St. Menas and Pantanassa (old metropolis). The main artistic workshop of the time belonged to the family of Kastrofylakas, who continued the tradition of the Cretan icon-painters, Michael Damaskenos above all, mixed with iconographic elements from the Flemish Painters.