2017-12-06 / Front Page

Byzantine Nativity Icon Seen Throughout Holiday Season

By Catherine Tsounis

Nativity of Jesus, 1405 (Cathedral of the Annunciation, Moscow Kremlin).Nativity of Jesus, 1405 (Cathedral of the Annunciation, Moscow Kremlin).Simplicity without gaudiness. The icon of the Nativity is seen on Christmas cards, newspapers and documentaries during the holiday season. Mary reclining on a red background with Jesus next to her says it all. Who painted this haunting, medieval image?

In Fall 2015, our guide Irina Chetina opened the “Legacy of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire” to us through art and architecture in modern Russia. We went to the Tretyakov Gallery and saw the “Nativity of Jesus” by Andrei Rublev. He was a monk.

The first mention of Rublev is in 1405 when he decorated icons and frescos for the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Moscow Kremlin in company with Theophanes the Greek and Prokhor of Gorodets. His name was the last of the list of masters as the junior both by rank and by age.

Theophanes the Greek was an important Byzantine master who moved to Russia, and is considered to have trained Rublev. In Rublev's art two traditions are combined: the highest asceticism and the classic harmony of Byzantine mannerism. The characters of his paintings are always peaceful and calm. After some time, his art came to be perceived as the ideal of Eastern Church painting and of Orthodox iconography.1

He is one of the greatest and most celebrated artists of early Russia. His life and career are sparse. It is unknown what was his name in baptism. Andrei is his monastic name. He died in 1430 in the Andronicus Monastery and was buried in a cemetery near the Savior Cathedral.

Andrei was considered an illustrious painter, surpassing all the others in his great wisdom. The Russian Orthodox church canonized him as a saint in 1988 for his holy life and iconography accomplishments.2
 
References:
1.      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrei_Rublev
2.      Editorial Board of the Russian Orthodox Church, THE RUSSIAN ICON. St. Petersburg, 2011. Print, p. 124.
 
Links:
http://www.icon-art.info/masterpiece.php?lng=en&mst_id=234- Nativity icon


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