Exhibition: Icons from the Era of Nicholas II

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Icon of the Mother of God “The Sovereign”

This article was researched from Russian media sources and written by Paul Gilbert, Founder of Royal Russia © 2018

On 18th July 2018, in the year marking the 100th anniversary of the martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, an exhibition will open in the Andrei Rublev Museum of Ancient Russian Art in Moscow, presenting a look at the development of the Russian icon during the more than 22-year reign of the last Russian emperor. 

Russian icon painting developed in a single cultural space along with literature, music and theatrical art, experiencing an extraordinary rise during the reign of Nicholas II (1894-1917). This flourishing activity was achieved through a number of icon painting and jewelry workshops, which received the title “Supplier of the Imperial Court”. The Imperial manifesto of 1905 on the toleration and the opening of the Old Believers altars attracted wide acceptance of church art by the Old Believers’ and the creation of new works oriented to the art of pre-Petrine time.

The exhibition will feature a wide range of icons from museum and private collections, including items with memorial inscriptions, from the time of Emperor Alexander III’s death in 1894 to the fall of the Russian monarchy in 1917.

The Icon of the Mother of God “the Sovereign” – pictured above – has a unique place in Russian history. It appeared in the Kolomenskoye village near Moscow on 2 March 1917, the very day that Emperor Nicholas II abdicated the throne. Until 1812 the icon belonged to a convent in Moscow, but in the year of Napoleon’s invasion of Moscow it was hidden in the Kolomenskoye village and forgotten there for 105 years, until the time came for the icon to be revealed in accordance with God’s will. The icon was found among other old icons in the cellar of the Church of Ascension, after the peasant woman Yevdokiya Adrianova was twice instructed in a dream to go to the Kolomenskoye village and search there for a special icon of the Mother of God. After being cleaned of centuries-old dust and grime, the icon revealed an image of the Theotokos sitting on a throne, with the Infant Christ on Her knees, extending His hand in blessing. The Holy Virgin held a scepter in one hand and an orb in the other, and had a crown on Her head. With Her regal air and unusually stern visage, Her appearance was divine.

Significantly, the icon revealed itself at a time when the Russian Empire embarked on its apocalyptic course of destruction, while out of its depths came Holy Russia to gain the crown of martyrdom. The Theotokos’ red robe reflected the color of blood, while the icon’s appearance on the day of the abdication of the last Tsar, and the Theotokos’ regal air with all the attributes of royal power signified that the Mother of God Herself took sovereigny over the Russian people who had just lost their monarch.

The exhibitions Icons from the Era of Nicholas II runs from 18 July 9 September 2018 at the Andrei Rublev Museum of Ancient Russian Art in Moscow 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 25 April 2018