I hope I can do justice to today’s exploration of the Tretyakov Gallery of Russian art of the 11rh to early 20th century (pre-Revolution).
We begin in the Church of St Nicholas, now forming part of the gallery, and which didn’t require the ladies to cover their heads as it is a museum church. Still you aren’t allowed to take photos, as I found out when I took one of the ceiling below – oops.
The church contains the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir (ie. an icon of Mary with baby Jesus that was written (painted) in the town of Vladimir, but is now in Moscow. I get the names of the icons confused with references to Marian apparitions, hence the explanation.
None of the images on-line do justice to the original’s appearance, which has had a long and hard life, but I downloaded one below.
It is a ‘miracle-working icon’, an expression with which I was not familiar. Miracles can happen when you pray before it. The history of the city of Moscow bears witness to this – a least in spots, you can google it for the stories.
Miracle-working icons are ones where you can engage with the subject’s eyes as you pray before it, and it appears to be looking back at you. Copies are made according to the long-standing canon concerning icons and these copies will inherit the miracle-working attributes.
So there you have it. I will bring back a suitcase full.
Moving on to the gallery proper, Tretyakov was a wealthy manufacturer in the late 1800s who was a patron of the arts acquiring a vast collection of art.
Peter III looks slightly uneasy in this painting. And well he might as he only reigned as Tsar for 6 months before being deposed and assassinated as a result of a conspiracy possibly led by his wife who succeeded him to the throne as Catherine the Great (ruled 1762-96).
Some of Catherine’s portraits were for propaganda purposes. Below she is seen as the head of a powerful navy (with a naval ship in the left hand background – note the Russian naval flag of St Andrew) and as the dispenser of justice – top right.
On the painting below she is looking very soft, with her dog – but pointing to a statue in the background which commemorates a great victory over her enemies.
Catherine and Peter’s son, Paul I, doesn’t look too sure of himself either – like father, like son – his life was overshadowed by his mother’s, he reigned for four years 1796-1801 and was also assassinated.
There is so much more that I will have to divide this gallery into a few posts.