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Russian Painting of the 17th Century
July 28, 2014 20:50

Established painting traditions remained to a great extent in the 17th century. The Council of 1667 strictly regulated subjects and images of painting, which was at the same time limited by order of the Russian tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. The Old Believers’ ideologist Habakkuk vehemently condemned any deviations from canons in the Russian icon painting.

The painters were supervised by the Kremlin Armory, which became the country’s art center involving the best masters of the 17th century. For 30 years the painting department was headed by Simon Ushakov (1626-1686). A characteristic feature of his icon painting was fixed interest in portrayal of a human face. Thus he breathed life into icons, making ascetic faces look animated.

Such is his icon Holy Image of the Saviour Not Made by Hands. Well-known is his other work Planting the Tree of the All-Russian State. It depicts Ivan Kalita and Metropolitan Pyotr watering a big tree in front of the Assumption Cathedral. The tree branches are decorated with portraits of Russian princes and tsars. Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich stands on the left side and his spouse with children are on the right side. All the faces are very well portrayed. Simon Ushakov is also known for The Trinity icon with realistic details. Simon Ushakov had a great impact on the development of Russian painting.
Yaroslavl painting school became a remarkable phenomenon in Russian art of the 17th century. Fresco painters depicted traditional church biblical scenes in images of everyday life in Russia. Saints’ wonders fade into the background in the light of ordinary phenomena. The painting Harvest in Elijah the Prophet Church, and frescos in St. John the Baptist Church are especially characteristic. Yaroslavl painters were also among the pioneers in landscaping.


Another secular genre reflecting the interest in human personality was parsuna, i.e. easel portrait painting of the 17th century. In the first half of the 17th century portraits adhered to icon-painting traditions (such as parsunas of Ivan IV and M. Skopin-Shuisky), whereas in the second half of the century they became more realistic (portraits of the tsars Alexey Mikhailovich, Fyedor Alekseevich, the cup-bearer G.P.Godunov, etc).

Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian Culture Russian History Russian Painting   

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