Rimma Shchipina on The Oleg Kushnirskiy Collection

Rimma Shchipina on The Oleg Kushnirskiy Collection

The icons of Oleg Kushnirskiy’s collection captivate the viewer with the elegance of precious ancient miniature icon painting, hence appealing to the widest audience.

The works mainly belong to the period after the reforms of Patriarch Nikon and date from the 17th to the 20th centuries. This period has not been fully explored and is marked by the complexity of stylistic trends and the diversity of iconographic centers. The collection replenishes a very fragmentary panorama of the history of Christian art of this period, but, most importantly, outlines the contours of the canonical tradition, viable in those centers that were often associated with the Old Believers, including the icon-painting villages of Vladimir province: Palekh, Kholuy, and Mstera. It was there that the workers of the Committee of Care on Russian Icon Painting (1901–1918) rushed to revive the Russian icon in the face of both the assimilation of European artistic styles and the competition of factory products. It is noteworthy that the works of the icon-painting villages are decently represented in the collection.

As one can assume, the Palekh and Palekh circle icons of the Resurrection—Descent into Hell are a certain group of analogs, and their description in the catalog compiled by Anna Ivannikova, curator of the collection of late Russian iconography at the State Hermitage Museum, gives the artworks the reference value from the point of view of museum attribution.

Chronicles as a genre of literature of the Middle Ages emerged as yearly additions to the Paschal computus; in this context, the Easter icons of the Resurrection—Descent into Hell with feasts are a kind of calendars as well as the pearl of the collection, the Yearly Menaion. F. I. Buslaev once called the church of St. Sophia in Constantinople “architectural menologium,” because there were 365 altar tables, and every day of the year was sanctified by divine services. The metaphor allows us to dwell on the similarity of anthropometric measurements in architecture and the calendar as a constitutive idea of Christian culture. The calendar idea unites with the Easter icons the Hexahemeron and the Iconostasis. The hierarchical composition of the iconostasis is based on the categorical definition of time in Christian culture by Basil the Great, and he is also the author of the Hexaemeron as an interpretation of the mystery vision of Moses.

The holistic conceptual and figurative solution of the collection changes the angle of view not only on the art of the Synodal period, but also on the condition of culture as a whole, as it indicates not a dispersion or schematization of the iconographic canon, but a significant spiritual concentration, reflected, in particular, by the icon of the Feodorovskaya Mother of God with the autograph of the new martyr Archimandrite Theodosius (Sobolev)a gift inscription to Nectaria, the Abbess of the Ponetaevsky Monastery, now a hermitage of the Fourth Earthly Domain of the Mother of God.

Rimma Shchipina,
Ph.D. in Philosophy, Associate Professor, Member of the Union of Restorers of Russia