Mosaics from the Underpass to Banya Starinna

Artist: Yoan Leviev

Date: 1970s

Dimensions: 4.78 x 2.36 m; 2.92 x 2.36 m and 4 x (3.50 x 2.36 m)

The six mosaic panels are located in the underpass beneath “Tsar Boris III Obedinitel” Blvd. and “6 Septemvri” St. in close proximity to Banya Starinna (Chifte hammam 15th c.). The height of the passage determined the panels’ height and their various widths. Four of the panels are identical in size and placed next to each other while the fifth one is larger and takes up an entire wall; the sixth panel is the largest and is located in the eastern passage leading to Nebet tepe.

All of the panels note Plovdiv’s various names from different time periods – Pulpudeva, Trimontium and Puldin (the first four panels), Philippopolis and Plovdiv (the fifth panel), and Filibe and Puldin (the sixth panel). The two largest panels depict figural compositions that represent the artist’s vision of the historical personifications of the city while the four smaller ones consist of rectangular blocks of color placed in two horizontal lines. The male head portrayed in the fifth panel is divided in halaf. One half of the head is ancient; it wears a laurel wreath and stands next to the ancient name of the city – Philippopolis. The other half of the head is contemporary and has hair waving like victory flags as well as the current name of the city Plovdiv noted next to it. Both halves of the head wear a symbolic crown made of the seven hills (tepeta) for which the city is known. The largest panel (the sixth one) depicts two male figures: medieval Puldin and Ottoman Filibe. They stand on either side of a fountain with a sun above it. A bird that faces the fountain is perched on the shoulders of both figures.

The technique used is opus tessellatum. The tesserae are from natural stone in six colors: red, beige, black, dark gray, light gray, and white. The mosaic is made with a cement binding that can be seen in the gaps and where pieces are missing. Most of the tesserae are hand-hewn with irregular shapes and vary in size between 2 and 8 cm; some tesserae are even larger.

According to eyewitness accounts, contractors made the mosaic in situ.

Plovdiv, Underpass to Banya Starinna. Anton Chalakov/BHF, 2023

Plovdiv, Underpass to Banya Starinna.

Link to Google Maps:

Yoan Leviev

Yoan Leviev
photo: BTA PressPhoto

Yoan Leviev was born in 1934 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria to the family of Isaac S. Leviev and Nadejda Panaiotova-Levieva. He graduated in 1958 from the “Decorative-monumental arts” program in the National Academy of Art in Sofia (then called the “High institute for fine arts “Nikolai Pavlovich”). His graduation work under the supervision of prof. Georgi Bogdanov was titled “The Boyana master.” He was a member of the “Plovdiv group” of artists since 1959 and a member of the Union of Bulgarian Artists (UBA) since 1961. He was also an active participant in exhibitions in Bulgaria and abroad. He visited Mexico in 1977 as the chosen representative of an exhibition presenting Bulgarian art, and the visit left a mark on his artistic work. The three most prominent Mexican muralists of the time – Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Siqueiros – were among his aesthetic inspirations. His personal acquaintance with artists like Jorge González Camarena, Rufino Tamayo and José Chávez Morado further increased his interest in monumental art forms. The artist died in 1994 in his home in Plovdiv. His works span from paintings, graphics, and illustrations to monumental art. He used various techniques such as fresco and secco wall painting, sgraffito, and mosaic.

His most famous monumental works are:
● the sgraffito panels on the façade of the funeral house in Plovdiv (1959);
● the wall painting in the boardroom of the “Maritsa” hotel (Plovdiv, 1969);
● the wall painting “Excerpt from the economic history of Plovdiv” (Plovdiv, 1966);
● the wall painting “Man and Earth” in the “Agricultural University – Plovdiv” (back then the High Institute of Agriculture “Vassil Kolarov”, 1967);
● the smalt and stone mosaic “Fights and ideals of the communist party” (“Moments from the resistance and the future development of socialism”) on the façade of the former communist party building (Plovdiv, 1969);
● the stone mosaic panel (2.30 x 6.30 m) “Yuri Gagarin” from the roundabout at the Plovdiv International Fair (Plovdiv, 1970-1971);
● the wall painting “Vazov and his works” at the National Library (Plovdiv, 1974);
● the smalt and stone mosaic in the Youth center in Burgas, in collaboration with Hristo Stefanov and Georgi Bozhilov – Slona (Burgas, 1975);
● the smalt and stone mosaic in the Boyana residence (Sofia, 1976);
● the casein and acrylic wall painting in the Grand Hotel Plovdiv (Plovdiv, 1978);
● the wall painting “Culture and the Working classes” in the building of the “Labor-union of culture” (Plovdiv, 1977);
● the wall painting “Man and Peace” in hall №8 in the National Palace of Culture, in collaboration with architect Alexander Barov; casein and acrylic (Sofia, 1981);
● the smalt and gold mosaic (600 sq. m.) “The fights and victory of the communist party” in the assembly hall at the Memorial House of the Bulgarian Communist Party at Buzludzha, in collaboration with architect Hristo Stefanov (Buzludzha, 1981);
● the smalt mosaic in the conference hall at the Ministry of Interior (Sofia, 1983);
● the wall painting in the administrative building of the Plovdiv International Fair (Plovdiv, 1987).

Yoan Leviev received the following honorary titles and awards: induction into the Order “Saint Cyril and Methodius” – first-class (1970); the title Honored Artist (1975); the award for decorative monumental arts “Ilia Petrov” (1983); induction into the Order of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria – second-class (1984); the “1300 years Bulgaria” – honorary insignia and medal (1984); the honorary insignia of the city of Plovdiv – first-class (1984); the painting award “Vladimir Dimitrov – Maistora” from the UBA (1984); and the title Honorary Citizen of Plovdiv (1995).


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