Western-influenced 19th-century icons on display at Russian Museum of Art

| October 20, 2017 | 0 Comments

An image of the Mother of God of Vladimir is among 19th-century icons on loan to The Russian Museum of Art in Minneapolis. Courtesy The Museum of Russian Art

An altar cross from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul is among more than 50 19th-century icons and other religious objects on display at The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis through March 3.

“Russian Sacred Art: Connecting Heaven and Earth” opened at the museum Oct. 14. According to the museum’s description of the exhibition, 19th-century icons are the “least well known and appreciated” in Russia’s centuries-old icon tradition. They are distinguished by a realistic style that emerged a century earlier during the westernizing reign of Peter the Great, and deviate from the traditional Russian style of icon imagery.

By the 20th century, the 19th-century icons were considered inferior to earlier icons, because they depicted their subjects on a worldly plane, and not on the heavenly realm, the hallmark of Russia’s golden age of icon painting in the 15th and 16th centuries, said Masha Zavialova, the museum’s curator.

“The were seen as not symbolic enough” and thought of as “disturbing the traditional canons of Russian golden age icon painting,” she said.

The exhibition’s run will coincide with All Saints’ Day, which the Catholic Church celebrates Nov. 1. Some of the icons depict saints exclusive to Russian Orthodoxy, but Catholic visitors will recognize icons of saints from both Orthodox and Catholic traditions, including St. Barbara, St. Mary Magdalene and St. Nicholas, as well as Mary, the Trinity, the Evangelists and Old Testament figures.

“Russian icon painting is one of the highlights of Russian culture in general … and also to eastern Christendom,” Zavialova said. “Any person who is interested in sacred art would be curious to see the sacred art of this part of the world. … Besides, they are beautiful works of art.”

The exhibition is the first to include this selection of icons from a significant collection in Minnesota. The museum is keeping the collector’s identity anonymous.

The cross on loan from St. Thomas is a blessing cross used in Eastern Orthodox liturgies, and one of four non-icon liturgical objects in the exhibition. It is one of two items in the exhibition that do not belong to the anonymous collector.

The Museum of Russian Art is located at 500 Stevens Ave. S. Admission is $10 for adults or $8 for seniors over 65. For more information, visit http://www.tmora.org.


Tags: , , ,

Category: Local News