The Museum of Russian Icons in Moscow is the largest private collection of Eastern Christian art to date. The Museum’s collection includes works of antiquity, early Christianity, Byzantine antiquities of the 6th - 14th centuries, Greek and post-Byzantine icons, and monuments of the Christian culture of Ethiopia. Today, this cultural institution features about 5,000 exhibits. Among the most notable permanent exhibitions of the Russian icon museum is the exposition titled “Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art,” which is dedicated to the most important period in the history of icon painting.
Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art at the Museum of Russian Icons in Moscow
During the existence of the Byzantine Empire, which lasted from the 4th to the 15th century, the cultural outlook of the society changed significantly, largely thanks to the emergence of new creative views and trends in art. The unique diversity of artworks, which reflected the reality of that time in different ways, contributed to the indispensable development of higher spiritual values and encouraged new generations to undergo profound enlightenment. Among the most common types of the cultural heritage of the Byzantine Empire, icon painting occupied a special place.
The word “icon” is of Greek origin; it comes from the Greek word “eikon” meaning “image” or “portrait.” In the period of the formation of Christian art in the Byzantine Empire, this word was used to denote any image of Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, angels, saints, and even Biblical stories. Regardless of whether it was a monumental art piece or easel painting, and no matter in what technique it was executed, the image was called “icon.” Nowadays, the word “icon” is applied mainly to the painted, carved, and mosaic icons. In this sense, it is used both in archaeology and art history to define old Russian icons and ancient Greek holy images.
Byzantine iconography was the most significant artistic phenomenon in the Eastern Christian world. Moreover, the creative culture of the state became the “ancestor” of other forms of art and influenced the iconography of many countries. Besides, the Byzantine Empire deeply affected the culture of Italy, mainly Venice. Byzantine iconography and new stylistic trends that emerged in the Empire, including those that appeared in the post-Byzantine period after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, were of paramount importance for many nations. You can get acquainted with the artistic achievements of the Byzantine Empire at the permanent exposition at the Museum of Russian Icons in Moscow.
Currently, the Museum of Russian Icons in Moscow presents nine permanent exhibitions that partially recreate the elements of the temple interiors and the workshop of an icon painter. They give a snapshot of the artistic space in which the religious masterpieces were created. The Museum is a member of the international organization of museums under UNESCO, which once again emphasizes its status in the global cultural arena.
Originally published at https://russianicon.com on December 11, 2019.