On view September 22, 2019 to December 31, 2020
Revealing the Divine: Treasures of Russian Sacred Art presents over 160 liturgical and devotional objects created in the Russian Orthodox tradition. Featured are artefacts in a remarkable array of media and styles. Intricately painted icons, richly embroidered vestments, glittering chalices, hand-illustrated books, ornamented Easter eggs – these and many more provide insight into the importance of sacred art in the religious life of Russia. From simple icons painted by provincial artists to a diamond and amethyst panagia (bishop’s pendant icon) fashioned by a leading jewelry firm, the objects demonstrate the function, symbolism, and significance of Russian sacred art.
The exhibition commences with an overview of religious art created in imperial Russia for public worship and private devotion. It touches upon the role of monasteries, the phenomenon of pilgrimage, and the use of religious symbolism in the Russian Imperial Army. A number of artefacts used or commissioned by members of the imperial Romanov family are displayed, some for the first time.
“Saint Isaac’s Cathedral 1858-1883.” Evgenii Bogdanovich (author); Nikolai Karazin (artist, 1842-1908). Printshop of V. Kirshbaum, St. Petersburg, 1883. Paper and ink, watercolor on paper, wood, ebony, leather, glass. Bequest of Metropolitan Laurus (Skurla), 2008. The book was likely a presentation volume gifted to Tsar Alexander III.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 lead to destruction and confiscation of ecclesiastical art and a halt in its production. It also resulted in the exodus of innumerable Russians from their homeland. Despite severely limited resources, the creation of sacred art and the preservation of age-old traditions continued both in the Soviet Union and in the Russian diaspora. Objects made in Soviet labor camps, in interwar Russian émigré communities, and in Displaced Persons camps tell this story.
The continuing development and practice of religious art in the Russian tradition is explored in the concluding section of the exhibition. Prominent émigré iconographers, such as Archimandrite Kiprian (Pyzhov) at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, painted icons and frescoes for communities in North America, Europe, and Australia. Today, ecclesiastical art in the Russian tradition is created both in post-Communist Russia and by artists of diverse ethnic backgrounds all over the world.
Design for Holy Trinity Cathedral in Jordanville. Roman Verkhovskoy (1881–1968), New York, 1944. Hand-tinted photograph.
Objects from the Russian History Museum on display in Revealing the Divine: Treasures of Russian Sacred Art are supplemented by artefacts on loan from twelve private collections.
The Russian History Museum gratefully acknowledges the following organizations and individuals for their support of this exhibition: American Russian Aid Association Otrada, Anna Gan, Grace Moe, the Rhode Island Foundation, George Schidlovsky and Marilyn Pfeifer Swezey.