Journal of Icon Studies, Volume 2, 2019

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Editor’s Greeting

Wendy Salmond

Welcome to the second issue of the Journal of Icon Studies (JIS), an annual publication of The Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, MA.

Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo, The Venetian Woman (Saint Mary Magdalene), ca. 1527–40, oil on canvas, 94.2 x 75.3 cm. Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, cat. 307 (photo © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie / Jörg P. Anders)

Savoldo’s Magdalene: “True Reformations Are Internal”

Michael Calder, Independent Scholar, England

The subject of Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo’s series of Magdalene paintings has long been a matter of debate. Looking at the series in the context of the reform movement in Venice in the 1520s and 1530s, when Christ’s resurrection could be viewed metaphorically, this article aims to demonstrate that Savoldo adopts a number of motifs to convey the idea of a renewing of life, which identify “Mary” as the mother. The case made here is that Savoldo’s paintings move beyond representation to the actual process of transformation, with an experiential function where the beholder was an active participant and narrative function was subordinated.
Icon of the Tikhvin Mother of God from the Tsivilsk women’s monastery, Tsivilsk, Chuvashia, seventeenth century (image from A.I. Mordvinova, Tserkovnoe iskusstvo Chuvashii [Cheboksary: Chuvashskoe Knizhnoe Izdatel’stvo, 2012])

Unorthodox Orthodoxy? The Icon’s Role in the Reception of Russian Orthodoxy by the Volga-Kama Chuvash

Alison Ruth Kolosova, University of Tartu, Estonia

This article discusses the icon’s role as a visual, sensory, and material means of encounter with the sacred realm in the context of Russian Orthodox missions in the Volga-Kama region of Russia. It argues that the icon facilitated engagement with Russian Orthodox worldview and rites before the introduction of vernacular textual learning owing to its capacity to resonate with indigenous understandings of the sacred and divine. The article draws on prerevolutionary ethnographic texts describing the role played by icons in Chuvash religious rites and argues that, rather than the dvoeverie and paganism attributed to them by the missionaries, the Chuvash were by the early twentieth century practicing an indigenous, inculturated Orthodoxy.

Leonid Chupiatov, The Veil of the Mother of God over the Dying City, 1941, oil on canvas, 84 x 76.5 cm. Private collection (image from Rakurs Chupiatova, ed. Tat’iana Leontieva [St. Petersburg: Petronii, 2013])

Leonid Chupiatov’s Icon of the Protecting Veil

Leslie O’Bell, University of Texas at Austin

The present essay is the first article devoted to the religious paintings of the Soviet artist Leonid Chupiatov (1890–1941), with special attention to his Veil of the Mother of God over the Dying City, created during the desolate Leningrad siege-winter of 1941-42. Dmitry Likhachev memorably called this work the “soul of the siege.” The article analyzes what it offers the viewer directly, as a modern version of the traditional image. It goes on to place the painting in the context of Chupiatov’s religious production, both during the siege and previous to it, and to explore the circumstances which ensured its preservation against all odds. An apocalyptic context which challenges even divine compassion and saving grace, one which recapitulates the forty days of Christ in the desert—such is the immediate context of Chupiatov’s icon of the Protecting Veil in his artistic work from the winter of 1941–42. In the end, the survival of this powerful image becomes comprehensible through the connections of a fragmented religious-philosophical confraternity. The article thus represents a step towards finally acknowledging the presence of the religious image in the artistic response to the Leningrad siege.

Julia Stankova, The Hospitality of Abraham, 2004, tempera on primed wooden panel and lacquer technique, 46 x 41 cm. Courtesy of Julia Stankova

The Hospitality of Abraham in the Work of Julia Stankova, Painter of Bulgarian Icons

François Boespflug, l’Université de Strasbourg; Jordan Daniel Wood (translator)

This article seeks to make the work of the Bulgarian icon painter Julia Stankova better known to readers. It does so first by presenting her person, her trajectory, and her iconographical work. Then it offers an overview of her reflection on the relationships between the Bible and the icon. Finally, it analyzes a dozen icons that she has produced over the past twenty years on the theme of the Hospitality of Abraham as recounted in Genesis.

Book Reviews

Nebesnaia golubizna angel’skikh odezhd

by Elena A. Osokina

Waltraud M. Bayer, Senior Research Fellow, FWF Austrian Science Fund, Vienna

The History of the Discovery and Study of Russian Medieval Painting

by Gerol’d I. Vzdornov, translated by Valerii G. Dereviagin

Christine D. Worobec, Northern Illinois University