Icons from Russia ~ Hillwood Museum

We are already up to the letter I in Jenny’s Alphabe-Thursday. Thank you Jenny for hosting.

This long post is a series of photos and information about Marjorie Merriweather Post’s amazing collection of Russian treasures including Icons from the Russian Orthodox Church. Mrs. Post’s collection was very interesting to me because of my Russian heritage. Both of my parents were born in Russia. My parents and their families were not Orthodox, although they have many Orthodox friends. I still find these treasures fascinating.


Icon artists are not expected to be original, but instead replicate an “original” image as faithfully as they can. Therefore, it may seem that icons are repetitive. However, each work of art differs subtly from one to the next. Each generation of iconographers contributes to the steady and subtle development of the genre. Each geographical area, each era and each monastery has a distinctive style.


Russians sometimes speak of an icon as having been “written”, because in the Russian language (like Greek, but unlike English) the same word (pisat’, писать in Russian) means both to paint and to write. Icons are considered to be the Gospel in paint, and therefore careful attention is paid to ensure that the Gospel is faithfully and accurately conveyed.


Russian icons are typically paintings on wood, often small, though some in churches and monasteries may be much larger. Some Russian icons were made of copper. Many religious homes in Russia have icons hanging on the wall in the krasny ugol, the “red” or “beautiful” corner.


Mrs. Post has some four hundred objects in her Icon Room including creations by Carl Faberge, the celebrated jeweler to Russia’s imperial rulers. The icons and chalices represent the types of objects Mrs. Post acquired through government-sponsored storeroom sales and commission shops in the Soviet Union. She bought them during a period in the 1930’s, when the Soviet government sought to sell imperial treasures to raise hard currency to finance its industrialization program.



Notable among Mrs. Post’s eighty pieces of Faberge objects are two imperial Easter eggs.


Both eggs were gifts from Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, to his mother, Maria Fedorovna. Nicholas’ father, Alexander III, had begun the Romanov family practice of presenting specially commissioned Easter eggs to loved ones in 1885. The tradition endured for more than thirty years and yielded in excess of fifty eggs.


The stunning, midnight blue Twelve monograms Easter Egg is decorated with the Cyrillic initials AIII, for Alexander III, and MF, for his wife. Maria received this egg in 1895 as the first of many eggs Nicholas would give her following his father’s death.


Nicholas presented his mother with the pink Catherine the Great Easter Egg in 1914. This egg’s pink and white cameo-like medallions bear scenes fo the arts and sciences. Cherubs representing the four seasons adorn the smaller ovals. Between the panels in raised gold are musical instruments. This egg was named for Catherine the Great because of the marvelous “surprise” it once held inside – a miniature figure of the empress. The surprise, revealed by opening the top of the egg, was lost long ago.









Among the ceremonial objects on view are icons created for the veneration of saints, elaborate chalices used for communion, and ornate textiles, including vestments, or priest’ robes, chalice covers, and altar cloths.








I’m really in awe of Mrs. Post’s collections and her foresight in collecting and preserving these amazing treasures.

Remember if you are ever in Washington D.C. put Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens on your list of places to visit.

Photobucket replaced all my photos with blurred out versions and they are holding my photos hostage until I pay them lots of money. I’m slowly going through all my posts and trying to clean them up and replacing some photos. Such a bother.

About Ellenhttps://happywonderer.com/I am a wife, mother, baba (grandmother) and a loyal friend. Jesus is my King and my hope is in my future with Him.

24 thoughts on “Icons from Russia ~ Hillwood Museum

  1. OMG I think these are just beautiful. You know, and yes I know better, but when I think of Russia I never think of religion. These are wonderful treasurers. And I’m so glad you liked that photo in my post of the Arizona Memorial Ellen. I thought out of all of them it was just perfect, even if I do say so myself. I thought no one else was going to pick up on that. 🙂 I should have known better 🙂 Thanks for these wonderful photos and information.

  2. I’ve been a long, very huge fan of icons. I used to have dimensional prints I’d made of 16 of them hanging on my wall. I still have dozens on my hard drive.

    Loved, loved loved this post! Gorgeous photos.

  3. These are all very historic to what I assume is the Greek Orthodox Church? I went to a wedding (not a big fat greek wedding) and saw things like this. Ellen: your queen anne’s lace seeds will only be tiny plants this year and look like flat green colored parsley. Then next year they will take off and really grow up fast and large.

  4. WOW… STUNNING, absolutely stunning… such richness and luxurious details…*BIG SWOON*… Though I don’t have Russian heritage, I must say that Russian history & art fascinates me. Last time my husband & I were in London, UK, the hotel we stayed at was right round the corner from a small Russian Orthodox Church. Thought the building was rather small, it was richly ornamented on the outside. I wondered what it looked like on the inside! It was often closed during the day, so no chance for peek, sadly… I love seeing all these icons especially. Thanks, Ellen… you always share such interesting things! Happy Days ((HUGS))

  5. Very interesting to me the part about the gospel preserved in icons. My husband purchased an extremely LARGE icon of the Lord’s supper in 3D which we have hanging in our living room.

  6. When we visited St Petersburg and elsewhere in Russia we were surprised to see Icons of the assassinated Tsar and his family. They were beautiful, and we were told that the icons were because the family was considered martyred.

  7. Oh my. These jewel-like colors and intricate artistry are astonishing.

    I’ve never really seen any collections like this. They are just jaw-dropping, though.

    I would definitely like to see that glorious collection in person!

    Thanks for all the eye candy this week.

    I really enjoyed this.


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