Russian Icons

Russian Icons

Russian Icons

Russian Icons

Excerpt

To those who have not visited the museums of Greece and Russia, the name icon is generally associated with those small, stereotyped religious pictures, usually depicting somewhat obscure saints, and as often as not covered not only with dirt and candle-smoke, but also by metal covers which leave visible only the face and hands of the figures depicted.

It is true that many later icons both in Greece and Russia were of this type. But these examples are no more characteristic of icon-painting in its grand period than the hack-work landscapes of the decorators' shops of to-day are typical of English painting of the eighteenth century. In the case of icons, it is true, really first-class examples are far from numerous, and the would-be admirer has to undertake comparatively arduous researches before he can find good reproductions, or make long journeys before he can see the best originals. But these impediments are fortuitous. They are the result, in the first place, of the fact that external conditions in the Orthodox Christian area have been peculiarly unfavourable to the survival of fragile works of art; and in the second, of the localisation of the Orthodox Faith in Eastern Europe and Russia. But when once the few publications containing good reproductions have been traced and a few originals have been seen, the first misconception of the nature of the icon is rapidly dispelled and new and surprisingly rich vistas arc disclosed.

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