Two Marian Icons from the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw. On the concept of an Old Rite Icon
Discussing the history and iconography of depictions of the Kazan and Korsun Madonnas, as well as the contexts in which they functioned, the article demonstrates the difficulties in determining whether Russian icons are of the Old Rite or 'Niconian' origin. The authoress proposes a re-examination of methods used to this end by scholars (e.g. the style of icons, inscriptions which identify the figures, the arrangement of fingers in the sign of the cross). She draws attention to the fact that, contrary to a common belief, Old Rite icons during centuries of their existence did actually undergo changes. An analysis of late Russian icons reveals that usually Old Believers' icons from various artistic centres partially acquired features typical for dominant art of the region. This is especially visible on the example of the Kazan depiction, which was very popular among the Old Believers, and which is simultaneously regarded to be a symbol of Russia after the reforms of Peter the Great. Another research problem is the participation of Old Believers in developing a rich collection of appellations denoting Marian icons. These appellations appeared on a larger scale in the 18th, and especially the 19th c., and the process was probably connected with the fact that at that time a large number of new types of Marian iconography came into being. However, the phenomenon could also be connected with the specific features of the Old Rite cult, especially with the fact that icons showing a largest-possible number of saints or Marian depictions were very popular in this community. Old Believers were among the first to introduce 'catalogues of Marian icons' into their writings. This is especially important since it necessitates a re-examination of the Romantic stereotype of Old Believers as a community which was totally closed against all contacts with the outside world and which did not take part in the processes of Occidentalisation of Russian culture, and which at the same time was internally consolidated and used a common, homogenous cultural code. Similarly, it does not appear entirely accurate to treat the 18th- and 19th-c. painting of the official Russian Orthodox Church as one which totally rejected the Orthodox tradition and which was transformed according to the patterns of Western-European art.
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