Museum of Russian Icons
203 Union Street
Through February 2
In 730 A.D., Emperor Leo III commanded that all icons in the Byzantine Empire be
destroyed, and he forbade the creation of new images. Leo and his followers, infamous
iconoclasts, feared that the use of images was idolatrous. Fortunately, the iconodules,
led by St. John of Damascus, called a hasty conference, resulting in the 7th Ecumenical
Council’s reinstating the veneration and generation of icons in 787 A.D. Thank God!
You might wonder if Leo, under the pressures of his
office, ever really looked at an icon. You decide.
Nearly 60 icons are currently on display at Clinton’s
Museum of Russian Icons in a special exhibition,
“Imaging the Invisible: Angels, Demons, Prayer &
Wisdom.” Call me an Iconodule, but to this reporter,
it is apparent that only an emperor, with his nose so
deep in so many other matters, could miss the depth
of suggestion imaged forth from an artfully crafted
icon. My opinion is that it’s not about “Believe this!”
but rather about the rhetoric of artistic seduction:
of line and color, movement and stasis, mass and
volume — for starters.
Magnifying glasses handily placed around the gallery
will focus and even beam their own light source
— a talent that took your average monk years to develop — upon angels hovering around and below
the principal actors of “Hymn of Axion Estin.” A quick
glance, the only kind available to a busy emperor,
would leave one with the impression of an orthodox
icon limply synonymous with dozens of others:
Mary and the Christ Child central to a more or less
anonymous angelic hierarchy.