Old Russian Icons

Icons ascribed to Andrey Rublev

Many consider Andrey Rublev the greatest Russian icon painter. His works found recognition during his lifetime and in the 16th century the Russian Orthodox Church already held them up as iconographic standards. However very little is known about Rublev's life and only a handful of facts can be related with any degree of certainty.

Andrey Rublev was born between 1360 and 1370 and died in 1430. It seems that as an adult he became monk at the Savior Andronikov monastery in Moscow, where he was also buried after his death.

Most scholars agree that he executed frescos of the Dormition Church in Zvenigorod, the Annunciation Cathedral in Moscow (with Theophanes the Greek and Prohor from Gorodets), the Dormition Cathedral in Vladimir (with Daniil Cherny), and of the Trinity Cathedral of St. Sergius' Trinity Monastery (with Daniil Cherny). Out of these frescos only fragments have survived in the towns of Vladimir and Zvenigorod. But, thankfully, we have several icons that bear the imprint of his genius.

The first two icons on this page come from the deesis (the Greek for "prayer" or "supplication") tier of the Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. Some scholars attribute this icon of the Mother of God to the famous icon painter Theophanes the Greek, who worked alongside Andrey Rublev in that cathedral.

The icon of the Savior comes from the so-called Zvenigorod deesis tier, which was discovered in 1918 in a barn next to the Zvenigorod Church of the Dormition. The authorship of this piece has never been seriously questioned. This icon of Christ has a dimension of psychological depth rare for Medieval art. In the eyes of the Savior, we find genuine humanity and unsearchable wisdom.

The last three icons on this page are understood to originate from the Trinity Cathedral of the St. Sergius' Trinity Monastery in Sergiev Posad.

The icon of the Trinity is another highly venerated icon. This symbolic representation of a Triune God speaks of unity in diversity and harmonious fellowship of love. St. Sergius of Radonezh (1322-1392) said that by contemplating the Holy Trinity we may overcome the fear of the odious divisiveness of the world. Today's world needs to hear this message as much as the 15th century Russia did.