Russian icons

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Our exhibition areas are currently undergoing renovation work. The collection is temporarily unavailable.


The second floor of Palazzo Leoni Montanari houses the collection of Russian icons, one of the most sizeable and important collections of Russian sacred art to exist outside of Russia.

The original nucleus of the collection, made up of a private collection purchased by the Bank in the mid-1990s, was subsequently enlarged by works of great artistic value from the 15th-16th centuries, as well as two stunning icons of the Novgorod school dating back to the latter half of the 13th century and depicting the Descent into Hell and the Ascent to Heaven of the Prophet Elijah.

In addition to enlarging the collection, made up of over 400 examples, these acquisitions have lent it – even in the eyes of experts in Byzantine and Ancient Russian art – a radically new status. An activity carried out systematically and consistently over several years gave rise to a museum that performs an important role in spreading Russian culture throughout Europe, thanks also to an annexed study centre that permanently conducts scientific research. The collection documents the different phases in the history of Russian icon painting – from the Middle Ages all the way down to modern times – through its several schools and art centres, in addition to the iconographic subjects that draw inspiration from the Scriptures, as well as from legends, apocryphal works, liturgical hymns, hagiographies, sermons and theological treatises by Byzantine and Russian authors. With its selection of about 140 paintings, the museum layout highlights the most common types of icons explains their role in Church and society – familial society first and foremost – over the centuries. Non-exhibited paintings are kept in a well-equipped storeroom that is part of the Gallerie.

 

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