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#12 - JRL 7237
Russian Icons on Exhibit at Pope John Paul II Cultural Center
Pope John Paul II Cultural Center
3900 Harewood Road, NE Washington, DC 20017
June 6, 2003
Contact: Sandy Peeler
202-635-5440 or speeler@jp2cc.org
For immediate release

Washington, DC - Windows into Heaven: Russian Icons, 1650-1917, a new exhibit at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, shows 88 Russian icons that were in danger of extinction during the Stalin era when the icons were forbidden.

The mere possession of an icon at that time could result in a sentence of death or life imprisonment. At great personal risk, the faithful preserved these works, making it possible for modern audiences to appreciate them.

The icons in the exhibit span the period of Russian history from Tsar Peter I (Peter the Great) to the Russian Revolution. Icons from this period, once a fixture in every Christian Russian home, have recently gained popularity. The majority of the icons in the exhibit were designated for private home use. During the mass exodus from Russian following the Russian Revolution, the people took their icons with them. Many of these icons were later sold.

The oldest icon in the exhibit, The Tikhvin Mother of God, is a reproduction of the original Tikhvin icon, which was painted by the Evangelist Luke and is said to have mysteriously moved from place to place, healing those who came to venerate it. The reproduction was painted circa 1660 and conforms mostly to the "old" style of icon painting. Russian iconography went through a metamorphosis in the mid 17th century during the great schism in the Orthodox Russian Church. Some icon painters adopted Western elements into their icons, making them more realistic and less stylized than the traditional "old" style. The Tikhvin Mother of God, however, possesses a small element of the Western influence: anatomically correct tear ducts.

Saint Savva of Storozhevsk, circa 1908, is the most recent icon in the exhibit. This icon was presented to Her Royal Highness Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna by the police force of the District of Zvenigorod. It is in the distinctive style of Mikhail Ivanovich Dikarev, who founded a famous icon-painting workshop in Moscow, and is set in a custom-fitted silk lined case with the retailers' mark of Faberg.

A fixture of Russian culture for more than 1,000 years, the icon was a focal point for faith and helped spread the gospel to people. To Orthodox Christians, icons are a mysteriological or sacramental means of communion with the persons depicted, whether Christ or the saints, and are vehicles of the divine or saintly presence.

In the typical Russian home, icons were displayed in a beautiful corner where they were draped in a colorful, embroidered cloth and adorned with a hanging burning lamp. Important events in a familys life were marked with an icon, beginning when the bride and groom each carried an icon during their wedding ceremony. Family members poured out their prayers of joy and sorrow before their icons that comforted them.

Icons are important to all Eastern Orthodox Christian faiths, including Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Ukrainian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Syrian, Albanian, Antiochan, Byelorussian, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian and others. Traditional icon painting is an art of reproduction, standardized religious painting based on an existing copy of an image. Variations arise from size, color or style.

The icon exhibit, from the James and Tatiana Jackson Collection, will run through August 17, 2003. The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center is open Tuesday through Sunday. Admission and parking are free. Donations are accepted. For more information call 202-635-5400 or visit www.jp2cc.org.

The Museums at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center provide a dynamic environment in which visitors of all ages and denominations engage in an intriguing exploration of faith and culture. Through state-of-the-art technology, art exhibitions, and cultural programs, visitors explore spirituality and culture, learn about the faith of others, and engage in inspirational activities designed to put their faith into action in their everyday lives. Top   Next