• MFA, Mosaic in the Treaties Hall, artist Ioan Leviev. Photo: Anton Chalakov/BHF, 2023

Yoan Leviev, Treaties Hall Mosaic

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria

Dimensions: 3 х 7 m, stone/smalt, 1983, architect: Bogdan Tomalevsky

The symmetrical composition of this mosaic, located in the Treaties Hall of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, is permeated by balance, rhythm as well as static. Its two nearly identical  halves mirror each other along a central axis. It is meant to convey security, stability and balance. Three figures – allegories of economic and technological prosperity, fertility and hospitality – stand in the middle, flanked by two lions – heraldic symbols of authority, strength, justice and royalty. Leviev associates the lion with stable and continuous statehood – an ancient motif that attests to his affinity for highlighting Bulgaria’s rich historical and cultural heritage. The figures are the main source of information, while the space around them is filled out with landscape and architectural motifs. A collage effect is achieved whose purpose is to compensate for the absence of other figures in the rest of the mosaic. The landscapes help the figures stand out, while producing an active effect of their own. The execution of the whole panel in bright, intense colours and the absence of perspective also enhance the figures.

The phoenix in the upper-left corner is meaningfully related to the sun, located to its immediate right. The phoenix is a symbol of immortality and cyclical rebirth, and thus serves as a sign of tradition and continuity.

The mosaic’s vivid presence in the Treaties Hall is enhanced by Leviev’s masterful use of contrast and scale, as well as by the dominant presence of gold smalt. Gold evokes a sense of solemnity and pomp, and is an expensive material that emphasizes the idea of the state’s stability, prosperity and abundance.

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Yoan Leviev

Yoan Leviev
Photo: BTA

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).