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Windows to Heaven opens at Maryhill Museum Sept. 14

KAZAN MOTHER OF GOD, egg tempera on wood with metal riza, is one of the Russian icons featured in Windows to Heaven: Treasures from the Museum of Russian Icons, opening Sept. 15 at Maryhill Museum of Art.

KAZAN MOTHER OF GOD, egg tempera on wood with metal riza, is one of the Russian icons featured in Windows to Heaven: Treasures from the Museum of Russian Icons, opening Sept. 15 at Maryhill Museum of Art.

— Windows to Heaven: Treasures from the Museum of Russian Icons will open at Maryhill Museum of Art Sept. 14, and run through Nov. 15.

The exhibition features a group of historically significant Russian icons dating from 1590 to the present, all drawn from the collection of The Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Ma.

Windows to Heaven: Treasures from the Museum of Russian Icons explores the historical context in which the icons were created, the definition of an icon, and how icons are made — both in the past and today. The exhibition also looks at Russian history and culture, and the systematic destruction of holy images, or the practice of iconoclasm.

What is an Icon?

The word icon derives from the Greek work eikon, meaning an image, portrait or likeness. An icon is a likeness of a divine, heavenly appearance, which worshipers use as a means for prayer. Icons are created for the glory of God, using a unique aesthetic criteria and artistic language. The subject matter of an icon may be a holy person, a scene from holy writings or a combination of both.

Traditionally, icons are painted in egg tempera on wooden panels. Portions of the painting are sometimes embellished with a metal covering, or riza, that can be decorated with gemstones or filigree.

Icons in Russia

Russia has a rich history and elaborate religious symbolism associated with icons.

Windows to Heaven: Treasures from the Museum of Russian Icons beautifully complements Maryhill Museum of Art’s own collection of Russian icons. Much of Maryhill’s Russian icon collection once belonged to Queen Marie of Romania.

The Museum of Russian Icons was founded by collector Gordon Lankton, who amassed more than 340 icons dating from the 15th to the 21st century. Located in central Massachusetts, it is the only museum in the United States dedicated exclusively to Russian icons.

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