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Sophia Kishkovsky: Russian icons discovered in Egypt

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  • Nina Tkachuk Dimas
    http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/47959.htm Russian icons discovered in Egypt By Sophia Kishkovsky Sinai, August 1, 2011   Researchers attribute the unique
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 6, 2011
      http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/47959.htm
      Russian icons discovered in Egypt
      By Sophia Kishkovsky
      Sinai, August 1, 2011
        Researchers attribute the unique climate
      of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula as a leading factor in the preservation of a treasure
      trove of Russian icons and liturgical objects recently found in St Catherine’s
      Monastery. The discovery of around 100 Russian icons and decorative objects
      dating from the 16th to 19th century at the Unesco World Heritage Site was
      reported in Russia last month. Almost all of the works were unknown to scholars,
      according to Natalia Komashko, a research project manager at Moscow’s Andrei
      Rublev Museum of Early Russian Art and Culture.
      St Catherine’s Monastery is famous for its library, which
      houses one of the world’s largest collections of ancient manuscripts and
      codices, as well as for its sizable collection of sixth-century icons that
      survived the wave of Byzantine iconoclasm that destroyed most at that time.

      Condition and climate control
      Komashko said the climatic conditions at Sinai played a
      significant role in the preservation of the icons. “In order for an icon to
      [remain in good condition] for as long as possible, it must have stable
      temperature and humidity [levels]… There is no problem with this [at] Sinai,
      which has unique natural conditions for the preservation of icons.”

      She said that the icons, which were on view in the Chapel of
      the Burning Bush before being hidden away in the sacristy several decades ago,
      showed signs of light restoration. “They were cleaned of their slightly darkened
      original coating and re-coated with a very distinctive lacquer,” said Komashko.
      She noted that the icons kept in the sacristy remained in almost perfect
      condition, compared with those housed in the monk’s cells and used daily. These
      suffered from wear-and-tear and paint loss and were crudely restored in the 19th
      century.

      From Russia with love
      How did this ancient monastery come to be a repository for
      such a large number of Russian treasures? According to scholars who have traced
      the links between Russia and Sinai, the first recorded Russian pilgrim to the
      monastery was a 15th-century monk. He was subsequently followed by a stream of
      Russian merchants and officials, all of whom came bearing gifts. The monks also
      sent emissaries to Moscow from 1519, and continued to send envoys into the 17th
      and 18th centuries. These envoys returned to Sinai laden with gifts, some of
      which came from the tsars.

      The recent expedition to Sinai, headed by Komashko, included
      other researchers from Moscow including staff from the State Tretyakov Gallery
      as well as the State Research Institute for Restoration. Previous expeditions
      conducted by the Andrei Rublev Museum in 2004 and 2005 sought to catalogue
      Russian works in the monastery’s churches and sacristy. Komashko said that there
      may be more Russian works yet to be discovered within the monastery’s walls as
      researchers are not allowed to enter the sacristy and the monks might not be
      able to distinguish Russian items from other works of art.

      The Russian Orthodox Church also participated in the most
      recent expedition and will be publishing a photographic book about its results.
      The
      Art Newspaper
      04 / 08 /
      2011

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