Sam Bowden ’24
Many of the metal Slavonic icons in our collection were mass-produced, individuals among thousands: most typically, molten brass was poured into a mold and cooled to create affordable, durable icons. In the 19th century, as political tensions and social unrest in the Russian Empire were reaching heights that would culminate in the 1905 Revolution, many literate, semi-wealthy citizens sought comfort in Orthodox traditions. A surge of interest in iconography followed.
The metal icons in our collection, including this depiction of St. Demetrios (2020.332), were created to meet this rapidly-growing demand. Despite the seemingly constraining form — mass production from a mold — icon-makers found ways to individualize their work. After an icon was set, it still had to be inscribed and colored, and here we find variations. The enamel in our version of this icon is unique from others, such as the version at the Andrey Rublev Central Museum of Ancient Russian Culture and Art in Moscow. Perhaps this was due to material constraints, the enamel available at a given point and place. It is also possible that our icon uses enamel to convey meaning in a way different from the one at the Rublev Museum — in ours, the earthly scene at the center is decorated with pale blue, while the backgrounds of the saints and Christ above and in the outer margins are treated with brighter, richer colors. Perhaps our icon-maker deliberately used color to more clearly differentiate between Heaven and Earth. Such small details add a human touch to a seemingly impersonal process.
Maya Virdell ’24
Repainting and Restorations
Will Gerhardinger ’24
I investigate and document repainting on the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Icons in the Blick-Harris Study Collection. Under ultraviolet (UV) light, spots which have been repainted reflect back more light. Using photoshop, I highlight these traces of repainting to aid future research on these objects, uncovering a fuller picture of their life and meaning.
Banner Image: Icon with Crucifixion, Archangels, Hodegetria, Saint Prokopios, and Donor, 17th–18th centuries. Blick-Harris Study Collection, 2020.324. https://digital.kenyon.edu/arthistorystudycollection/1339/