Splendour and Glory
Art of the Russian Orthodox Church
Icon of Our Lady of Kazan, Icon: Moscow, late 19th century; setting: Moscow, Pavel Ovchinnikov Factory, 1887; charms: St Petersburg, Carl Faberge Company, 1890—1900,
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From 19 March to 16 September Splendour and Glory will provide the first overview in the Netherlands of the time-honoured spiritual and artistic traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church. More than 300 religious artefacts – icons, fresco fragments, robes, paintings, historical books and gold and silver objects associated with Christian worship – form the tangible evidence of this rich and enduring sacred institution. Themes in the exhibition include the Church's Byzantine origins and tradition, ecclesiastical feast days with Pascha (Easter) as the high point of the religious calendar, and the tsars and their 'private' church. On display for the first time are an imposing iconostasis, exceptional fourteenth-century frescoes from Pskov and a wealth of magnificent icons from the Hermitage St Petersburg and other renowned Russian collections.
Religion has played an essential role in Russian society, from the Church's earliest beginnings in 988, when Grand Prince Vladimir officially adopted Orthodox Christianity as his state religion, until the present. After this 'baptism', the Orthodox faith spread rapidly throughout the realm, adding an extra dimension to church history and art history.
The exhibition walls will be richly filled with icons, large and small, centuries old and world famous. Icons are sometimes called windows on eternity, for they are believed to reveal a piece of heaven. Their beauty is without parallel. Attention will focus on the origins and development of Russian icon painting, with Kiev as its birthplace; examples from various schools will also be displayed, each with their own stylistic characteristics.
Photos of important churches and monasteries in traditional religious centres such as Novgorod and Pskov reveal the flowering of monastic and ecclesiastical life. In addition to disseminating the Orthodox faith, monastic institutions played a highly significant role in secular society: monasteries often served political and economic interests while the nuns in convents assumed a range of social tasks. Many objects bear images of saints, of which there are many in the Russian Orthodox Church. The most revered of these is the Mother of God, followed by St Nicholas whose name day is celebrated twice in Russia, in the spring (22 May) and in the winter (19 December).
Icon of Our Lady of Iveron, Moscow, Russia, 1690—1700, Wood, oils (?), gold, silver, diamonds, emeralds, rubies; embossed, engraved; 9.5 х 7 х 1.3 cm
Text and (moving) images visualise and illustrate major themes such as origins and tradition, medieval Russia and the earliest religious centres, and the spread of Christianity in Russia. Attention is also paid to the Church's suppression by the Soviet regime and its renaissance in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991.
For six months the Hermitage Amsterdam will be suffused with the spiritual ambiance of ten centuries of exceptional Russian art.
Sources: Hermitage Amsterdam Press Release