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Russian Icons

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Russian Icons

 The history and art of the Russian icon can be dated back to the 10th century; and perhaps the most famous Russian iconographer was Andrei Rublev who created his masterpieces in the 15th century.  Most assuredly these Russian Orthodox treasures rose to prominence in the 1700's, when it became common for Russian families to commission icons to be painted for private use, and they became widely distributed outside of the halls of the churches.  Typically Russian icons were and continue to be painted in tempura on wood; but they were also created in copper, brass, and silver.  Following strict guidelines of orthodoxy, these objects of fine religious art are essentially copies of depictions of saints and scenes such as the Virgin Mary that date to antiquity in the history of the church.

Many Russian icons are images considered to be "miraculous"; often named after the towns where the miracles occurred in history, such as Kazan, Vladimir, or Smolensk. All of the hundred of depictions of Mother Mary are also considered to be "miraculous" in the Russian Orthodox religion. 

Antique Russian icons were seldom signed by the artist; as these works were created by humble servants of the church who did not seek recognition. However, they can many times be fairly accurately dated by style; or by hallmarks on the riza (thin protective coverings of tin, bronze, or even sterling silver, often marked and dated by the silversmiths. Another protective facade was the oklad or "cloak" which could completely surround the icon in a box-like cover.

Many of the existing antique Russian icons were suppressed and even destroyed in Russia during the days of the communist rulers of the Soviet Union, who officially banned the Russian orthodox church. Many were hidden in the homes, or buried, to keep the owners from being persecuted by the State.  The ones that survive are rare examples of the art not only of the Russian Orthodox church, but also the rich and sometimes bloody history of Russia through the centuries.  Collectors of liturgical art, as well as those who just appreciate the fine art of iconography, have made Russian icons quite valuable depending on quality, age, condition, and other factors.

Today, contemporary icons are now being produced in Russia, again by the church but also from the best and most skilled of independent Russian artists. The Russian American Company in Sitka Alaska has an extensive inventory of both antique Russian icons from the time of the Czars; to finely painted traditional Russian icon being produced today. To find authentic Russian icons, please visit our website,