The history of Ukrainian iconography and book miniatures

It is believed that the icons in the Kievan Rus was appeared after the baptism of the country by Prince Vladimir in 988. First in Rus there were not own icons, as the country was pagan. So people did pray not to saints but worshiped to the spirits and deities through small sanctuaries. Mystical powers and deities were depicted in the form of figurines of wood, stone, say or straw. The word "icon" is of Greek origin and is translated as "the image", so you can often hear there that people swear on the "image of the saints", and that "images" stand in the churches. Originally icons were brought to Rus mainly from Byzantium, Bulgaria and Greece, but with church building were developing the native schools of icon painting because the demand for this type of art grew annually. The cult of icons has been approved and permitted in churches on the VII Ecumenical Council (aka Second Nicene Council) in 787 AD, 57 years after the beginning of the Byzantine iconoclasm. However, to completely stop the iconoclasm was possible only in 843. Interestingly, the early Christians avoided the image of God and his angels. The first icons had a symbolic characters, not only because of the fear of God (fear of "wrong" to presentation the divine entourage), but also because of the need to hide from the wrath of the pagans, whose land started to conquer the Christianity. School of icon painting organized frequently in monasteries. This was due not so much insistence to keep the sacred canons, as the need to focus on the work. In the monastery the monk was not distracted from work and he was able to create a masterpiece in a confined space (the size of the board - the basis of the icon), he could create an image that has a psychological impact on the masses, the painter could choose the most expressive composition, and to choose the most appropriate colors. People believed that the icons heal ailments, help in domestic affairs, unlike the frescoes and mosaics that were just decorations.

Today the oldest surviving icons are considered Kholmskaja and Vladimirskaja Icons of the Mother of God. The first is dated 1259 year and stored in Lutsk in the Museum of Volyn icons. Vladimirskaja Icon brought to Kievan Rus as a gift to Prince of Kyiv Mstislav from the Great Patriarch of Constantinople, in 1131. It was stored in Vyshgorod Nunnery. Nowadays, the icon is stored in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow - it was moved here in 1395 to protect the city from the Tamerlane the Conqueror. These two icons became the prototypes, guidelines for beginner Ukrainian painters. The founder of the first school in Kyiv is considered Metropolitan Hilarion. One school was located at the Church of St. Sophia, and the second in the Pechersk monastery. Alas, after all these centuries, the lion's share of the works and the names of the masters did not live up to the present days.

Among the most famous names in particular stands out the name Alimpiy (or Alypy, to use religious scriptures). He was the priest-monk of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. His parents send him to the monastery for he learn from Greek painters, which painted the Pechersk Lavra of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Alimpiy also was learning icon painting and mosaic laid out. According to the testimony of the church, Alimpiy reached such skill that he was able to paint and gild the icon in just a few hours, while it did not work so hard for a living - a third part of the “salary” he gave to the poor, another third part he spent to purchase paint and wooden base for the icons, and the last third part he spent on himself. Another famous painter of that time was Gregory. To the Kyiv master school belong a number of works XI-XIII centuries, including Yaroslavl icon Oranth (stored in the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Yaroslavl, Russia), the icon of the Annunciation of Ustiug (Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia), the icon of Svensk (aka the Pechersk) Virgin (Svensk Holy Assumption Monastery, Suponevo, Russia). Among the most revered icons that have come to us from ancient times, is an icon of the Virgin Mary - Yeleus (brought from Byzantium to Vyshgorod, Ukraine), it was also called Vladimirskaja Mother of God. Today, it is stored in Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Traditions of Kyiv icon schools are recognizable in other schools: in schools of Galych, Vladimir-Volynskij, Suzdal, Novgorod and Vladimir.

Iconography in Ukraine has developed according to the canons of the Church, but there was a slight exception. The basis for the images often served as linden, common in Ukrainian latitudes, and therefore the most accessible. It is interesting that in Ukraine, also painted icons on glass, as well as become part of another national treasure - embroidery. Most historians and art historians agree that it was during the XI-XII centuries there were pronounced national characteristics in the form of fine art. Ukrainian iconography from the Russian, Greek and other Orthodox schools featured in the first place, "softness" picture (colored more harmoniously with an others), the presence of a warmer color of pure gold, gilt in this case was paler, the presence of plant design (for clothes on the edges of the board of the icon). It is also worth noting that the Ukrainians have their "favorite" saints. For example, a particularly strong those days (like nowadays) revered the Mother of God. This love is reflected in her icons - they are much softer and more delicate than its Russian and Bulgarian analogues. One of the most famous icons of Ukrainian devoted to princes Boris and Gleb. They became the first canonized Russians for having been killed in the strife by their brother, and they are considered the martyrs.

The colors were chosen for a reason. In iconography, in contrast to the painting, the colors are highly symbolic in nature, though not always the same color meant the same thing. It is noteworthy that the most "favorite" color of painters was blue, or rather its hue - the color of the sky, where according to belief of Christians God is living. For the image of a stormy sky most often used purple tones. Violet was used for the fiery glow, the eternal night of hell. However, the main color of the icons is yellow (golden) - the color of the sun, in front of which the darkness recedes. In the iconography this color is called "assist", while it is always depicted long thin beams, and never - solid color. General tone of ancient art taught painters of Byzantium. Initially, the tone was subdued, as if talking about repentance, but to the XIV century paint became brighter. Interestingly, with the new tone of the icon they were shining in the twilight of the church. However, by the XVI century church has returned to the dark tones - they are dimmed and darkened gradually, and in the XVII century, they began lurks black.

Interestingly, around the XI century, widespread miniature book as a special case of iconography, as most manuscripts were created in churches and monasteries. These books were wrote on expensive parchment, one book could be written and decorated for a few years. Binding has always been tough, and books are often closed on the lock fitted to the binding. Such books as well as the first icons were created in the image and likeness of the Bulgarian and Byzantine picture books. In the library of Yaroslav the Wise were hundreds of pieces, some of which were written in the scriptorium, which also was founded by the Grand Prince. Among the oldest surviving books with illustrations are "Ostromir Gospel” (XI century), "Anthology of Sviatoslav" (1073), "Bucach Gospel", "Yuiriy Gospel", "Mstislav Gospel” (all three belong to the XII century), as well as a number of other books.

One of the most important books from a historical point of view is the "Radziwill Chronicles” (XV century). This book contains about 620 miniatures, giving an idea of the ancient Russian art and the princes' lives. In addition, thanks to the annals scientists have learned more about the architecture of Rus, about the clothing of its citizens, home improvements by Rusichs. In addition, the thumbnails show the most important military campaigns of those years - the capture of Constantinople by Oleg, the construction of Sophia Cathedral, the uprisings of 1068 and 1147, a series of internecine wars and campaigns on the wild tribes. It is noteworthy that in the ornamentation of the Kievan Rus was often inseparably connected with the jewelry business and arts and crafts.

When in 1240, Batu Khan almost destroyed Kyiv, almost all Ukrainian icon painting schools moved to Western Ukraine, to Galych. Interestingly, the bulk of the icons in the houses began to appear only in the XVII century, to the golden age of Ukrainian Cossacks, when it is formed mostly of Orthodox Christians. It is in the XVII-XVIII centuries, a new surge in the popularity of this art form has created a new trend in iconography - the people iconography. It was quite a unique phenomenon in the Orthodox world, as in the other states the drawing images of the saints by ordinary people was considered almost sacrilegious. However, in Ukraine, village self-taught not only created images of the saints for the other villagers and churches, but often engaged in church paintings.

However, the process of industrialization, widely-paced European XIX century, slowed down the growth of creative artists. Appeared the machines that could produce the color copies - they were printed on paper, automatically pasted on the wooden base, forged, and then placed under the glass. A quick and cheap way of mass production drove the craftsmen to the background. The second severe blow masters got from the Soviet authorities. The Bolsheviks were burning or repurpose temples, destroyed icons, repressed masters and clergy. Who managed to escape from the red terror, Stalinist repressions and further policy of state atheism, worked until the end of their days abroad.

Today, people have the freedom, in particular - the freedom of religion. And there are all prerequisites for the revival of one of the most beautiful Ukrainian schools - school of icon painting.
blog comments powered by Disqus

The coming holidays

The Nativity of the Virgin Mary or second-Pure

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the first pure, as they say), the Christian feast of the Orthodox Church is one of the twelve great Marian feasts, it ...

The Day of Chernihiv

Chernihiv city is considered one of the oldest in Ukraine. It is based in 907, before the christening of Kievan Rus. Since the exact date of its founding...

The Day of Poltava

Poltava citizens celebrate the Day of the city on September 23. The city was founded in 1174. Traditionally, the celebration is timed to the Day of Liber...

Read also