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.