Journal of Icon Studies, Volume 3, 2020

Click the image above to view the entire Vol. 3 as a pdf.

Editor’s Greeting

Wendy Salmond

Welcome to Volume 3 of the Museum of Russian Icons’ Journal of Icon Studies. The Journal is an open-access, peer-reviewed resource for the interdisciplinary study of icons around the globe, from the Byzantine period to the present.

Salus populi: Icons and the Protection of the People

Kirstin Noreen

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Pope Francis prayed before an icon of the Virgin and Child in Santa Maria Maggiore and a crucifix in San Marcello, two images associated with miraculous healing and intercessory power. He subsequently had the icon and crucifix moved to St. Peter’s where they flanked the pope as he offered a special Urbi et Orbi blessing on March 27, 2020. To contextualize Francis’s use of an icon during the coronavirus outbreak, this article will trace the role of cult images in Rome during occurrences of disease and will briefly discuss the specific importance of the Santa Maria Maggiore icon for the early Jesuit Order.


‘Ransom of His Soul:’ Shaped Text as Medium and Mediator in Byzantium

Mateusz J. Ferens

Shaped text in the Byzantine context has recently received considerable attention from scholars. Yet decorative, non-figural shaped texts remain relatively unexplored. Drawing on the works of Jeffrey Hamburger and Ivan Drpić, this article analyzes an instance of a decorative shaped text in the catena of the Middle-Byzantine manuscript known as Laur. Cod. Plut. 5.9. This paper argues that the shaped text bore a significant purpose and a theological meaning for its producer, Niketas. Far from being merely decorative, the shaped text featured as its own distinct medium and functioned as a soteriological mediator between man and God.

A Haymarket Khozhdenie na osliati: Raskolnikov’s Donkey Walk and the Failures of Iconic Performativity

Kathleen Scollins

In sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Moscow, Orthodox priests and celebrants reenacted Christ’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in a ritual known as the Donkey Walk (Khozhdenie na osliati). Art historian Alexei Lidov has interpreted this reenactment as a “spatial icon,” in which city and inhabitants co-create a dynamic, living “Entry into Jerusalem” icon. This paper reexamines the final chapters of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment within the context of this ritual, arguing that Raskolnikov’s attempted act of penitence at the Haymarket represents a failed Donkey Walk, in which the city and its inhabitants resist the anticipated transformation, suggesting the impossibility of iconic performativity in Peter’s profane city.

The Visual Polemic in Tolstoy’s War and Peace: Icons and Oil Paintings

Marcus C. Levitt

The phenomenon of Napoleon and Napoleonism that Tolstoy attacks in War and Peace is not only—arguably, not even primarily—a textual phenomenon. The cult of Napoleon was to a great extent a phenomenon created by the visual arts; portraits of Napoleon and of key moments in his career played a central role in promoting him as a “Great Man.” War and Peace contains numerous direct and indirect references to these images, and Tolstoy uses them to build his narrative. This paper analyzes two key pairs of scenes in which Tolstoy explicitly invokes Napoleonic visual images and undercuts them by juxtaposing them to Russian icons.

Book Reviews

Framing Mary: The Mother of God in Modern, Revolutionary, and Post-Soviet Russian Culture

By Amy Singleton Adams and Vera Shevzov, eds.

Jefferson Gatrall,
Montclair State University

Visual Thought in Russian Religious Philosophy: Pavel Florensky’s Theory of the Icon

By Clemena Antonova

Justin L. Willson,
Princeton University