Some of the Most Outstanding Russian Icons

As you know, the Greek word “icon” is translated as an image or depiction. This is probably the reason why many people consider hand-painted icons of Christ, the Mother of God, or saints to be portraits of holy persons. However, it’s not quite true. The fact is that the religious icon is intended to show the spiritual beauty of the person depicted, while the portrait is focused on his or her physical features and mood. If you want to feel this difference, just look at antique Russian icons by Andrei Rublev, Theophanes the Greek, Dionysius, Simon Ushakov, or one of the unknown artists, whose masterpieces are included in the world’s treasury of religious icon art. Here are the most outstanding Russian icons that speak for themselves:

The Theotokos of Vladimir

The Theotokos of Vladimir is one of the most well-known Eastern Orthodox Church icons and the greatest Russian relic that was presented to Prince Mstislav by the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople at the beginning of the XII century. It is believed that this antique icon was created by Luke the Evangelist, the author of the eponymous Gospel. The masterpiece is presently located in the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

Our Lady of Kazan

Our Lady of Kazan, one of the most famous religious icons within the Eastern Orthodox Church, was discovered in 1579 in the Russian city of Kazan. Unfortunately, in 1904, it was stolen from the Kazan Monastery of the Theotokos, where the antique icon had been kept for centuries. Since then, no one has seen it again. However, its venerated copies are still displayed at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Yaroslavl.

The Trinity

The Trinity, created by Andrei Rublev (c. 1414), is recognized as the pinnacle of Russian icon painting and one of the most famous representatives of the religious icon art on the whole. Being an embodiment of humility, mutual love, harmony, peace, and spiritual unity, this outstanding masterpiece is full of symbolism and hidden meanings. The original Trinity is currently held in the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

The Savior of Zvenigorod

The Savior of Zvenigorod, also known as Christ the Redeemer, was painted by Andrei Rublev at the beginning of the XV century. This amazing icon of Christ that is now very damaged was found by accident near the Assumption Cathedral in Zvenigorod in 1918. It was stored (or hidden?) under a barn floor, with several other religious icons nearby. The antique Russian icon is now exhibited in the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

The Saviour Made Without Hands

The Saviour Made Without Hands was painted by Simon Ushakov in 1658. This magnificent icon of Christ created with a distinctive “life-like” approach was actually a basis for many later works. Moreover, it is considered a key piece of the XVII-century Russian icon painting. This antique icon is also currently on view at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

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