It was headed by art history PhD Nadezhda Vysotskaya (later Doctor of Science, professor and laureate of the State Prize of the BSSR). There werenumerous expeditions of the State Art Museum of the BSSR to study the cult monuments of painting, sculpture, arts and crafts in the Catholic and Orthodox churches of the republic. In total, the museum organized 81 scientific expeditions, where a significant number of unique works of ancient Belarusian art were discovered. As a result of expeditionary activities, the museum received about two thousand objects of historical and artistic significance. In fact, new collections of ancient Belarusian painting, wooden sculpture and carving, early printed books, arts and crafts were formed. As the works were restored and studied, they were introduced into scientific circulation.
The staff of the department carried out research work on the inventory of cult property in the existing churches in 1980–1989. An extensive scientific and factual material was collected on the art values that were at that time in the churches of Belarus. These expeditions were attended by research officers, restorers, historians and photographers from the museum and other cultural institutions from Minsk, Moscow, Grodno and Mogilev.
The first large-scale albums on ancient Belarusian art were published by Nadezhda Vysotskaya: ‘Painting of Belarus in the 12th–18th centuries: Fresco, icon and portrait’ (1980), ‘Plastic arts of Belarus in the 12th–18th centuries’ (1983) and ‘Arts and crafts of Belarus in the 12th–18th centuries’ (1984).
In general, the department studies the main types of Belarusian art in the 12th–early 19th centuries (icon painting, monumental painting and sculpture, arts and crafts, early printed editions), as well as Russia (Old Believer copper casting and Russian icon). Several monographs and more than 200 scientific articles have been published on these subjects. Theses have been defended. The catalogues of collections were published: ‘Ancient cast image… Russian copper casting of the 12th–20th centuries in the collection of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus’ (Yelena Karpenko, 2007); ‘Books of the Cyrillic font of the 17th – early 20th centuries in the collection of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus’ (G. V. Kireeva, N. Ya. Trifonova, 2012).
The staff of the department is actively involved in holding exhibitions both in Belarus and abroad. Belarusian icons were displayed in the Vatican, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Liechtenstein, Russia and Ukraine. The main exhibitions catalogues are published: ‘Belarus. The boundary between heaven and earth. Icons in the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus’ (2004), ‘Orthodox icon in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus’ (2008); ‘Belarusian altar painting in the 18th–19th centuries’ (2009); ‘Orthodox World. Image of Christ in the iconography of Eastern Europe’ (2015); ‘Icon painting and altar painting of Belarus in the 16th – early 19th centuries in the collection of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus’ (2021).
The department specialists participate in international and republican scientific conferences. They conduct educational activities in universities of the capital. They give lectures on the history of arts and restoration, supervise diploma theses and student practice; provide consultations on scientific topics of the department; conduct fine art expertise at the request of state organizations and individuals. The staff members have developed a series of popular lectures on the history of Belarusian art in the 11th–18th centuries, on the method of painting, on the history of restoration and attribution of art monuments.
The employees of the department worked on the creation of expositions for the museum’s branch ‘Mir Castle’ (since 2011 – the Museum ‘Mir Castle Complex’) from 2007 to 2010. Well-known Belarusian scientists in the field of military history, material culture, archeology and castle architecture were engaged as specialists and consultants. As a result of joint efforts, the museum opened for visitors in 2010.
Such outstanding specialist as Aleksandr Yaroshevich (1940–2016), an art history PhD, a specialist in the field of Belarusian icon painting, sculpture and historical portrait, worked in the department of ancient Belarusian art. He is the author of more than 200 publications, including the album ‘Museum of Ancient Belarusian Culture’ (2004), books on the history of Belarusian churches, monasteries and individual icons, a regular participant in conferences in Belarus, Russia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine. He has dozens of attributions of works from the museum collection and many articles in specialized journals. Ivan Sinchuk worked as a leading research associate, a historian, an archaeologist and a numismatist from 2008 to 2014. He graduated from the Belarusian State University with a specialization in ‘Auxiliary Historical Disciplines’ in 1981. He is an employee of the ‘Belspetsproektrestavratsiya’ Institute. Ivan Sinchuk studied architectural and archaeological monuments in Mozyr, Mogilev, Bykhov, Nesvizh and Kobrin. He took part in the archaeological excavations of Mstislavl, Rovno, Grodno, Vilnius, Trakai, Kaliningrad, Lenbork, Novogrudok, etc. He completed postgraduate studies at the Institute of History of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus in 1992. He explores the history of money circulation, the method of monetary business in the 9th–20th centuries, and the history of material culture in the 16th–20th centuries. He taught auxiliary historical disciplines in the specialty ‘Museum Affairs and Protection of Historical and Cultural Heritage’ at the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts. He is the author of about 800 published scientific papers and 200 encyclopedic articles. Ivan Sinchuk solved a number of problems related to the restoration of the Mir Castle, and he participated in the creation of several expositions. Yury Piskun, a leading research associate and a fine art expert, worked in the department from 2017 to 2022. He graduated from the Belarusian State Theater and Art Institute, and he finished postgraduate studies at the Institute of Art History, Ethnography and Folklore of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus in 1980. He took part in the museum’s expeditions as a researcher of church art. He was awarded the title of associate professor in the specialty ‘Art’ in 2005. He is a professor of the Department of Costume and Textiles at the Belarusian State Academy of Arts. He studies historic portrait and Belarusian icon painting.
Some scientific articles in the 3-volume encyclopedia ‘The Grand Duchy of Lithuania’ (2005–2010) are devoted to such employees of the department as Nadezhda Vysotskaya, Ivan Sinchuk and Aleksandr Yaroshevich.
The following employees worked in the department over the years: I. V. Astashova, K. V. Barabanov, O. E. Brigadnaya, T. V. Dashkovskaya, V. G. Karelin, G. V. Kireeva, V. M. Oreshko, N. V. Svintsova, A. A. Skepyan, E. V. Stepanova, V. A. Sychev, N. M. Usova, I. L. Cheban, A. A. Shpunt and D. L. Yatskevich.
She has been working in the department since 1980. She is a custodian of the permanent exposition of ancient Belarusian art. She graduated from the Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture named after I. E. Repin of the Russian Academy of Arts (Faculty of History and Theory of Fine Arts). She took part in scientific expeditions (1978–1989).
She participated in organizing exhibitions of Belarusian icon painting in Spain, Italy and Ukraine. She undertook an internship in France on European weaving. She is a laureate of the Special Prize of the President of the Republic of Belarus (2007). The range of scientific issues: Belarusian portrait painting in the 17th–18th centuries, artistic fabrics of local and Western European production, Russian copper casting and artistic metal.
She has been working in the department since 1983. She graduated from the Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture named after I. E. Repin of the Russian Academy of Arts (Faculty of History and Theory of Fine Arts) in 1983. She has been a custodian of the collection of early printed books since 1996. She has been a leading research associate since 1997. After completing her postgraduate studies at the State Hermitage in 1998, she defended her PhD thesis ‘Mural painting in Eastern Belarus in the 17th–18th centuries’.
Natalya Trifonova took part in the museum’s scientific expeditions in 1983–1989. She is one of the few specialists in medieval art in Belarus with many years of experience. She has dozens of publications in museum collections and other publications, including those related to the study of individual copies and groups of books from the collection of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus. She is an associate professor at the Department of Ethnology, Museology and Art History of the Belarusian State University. In collaboration with G. V. Kireeva, an employee of the National Library of Belarus, she published the catalogue of books in Cyrillic printing in the museum’s collection. She is working on the catalogue of Russian icon painting in the 17th–19th centuries.
iShe graduated from the Belarusian State University (Faculty of History, Department of Ethnology, Museology and Art History) in 2000. She finished postgraduate studies at the Institute of Art History, Ethnography and Folklore of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus in 2008.
She is working on her PhD thesis on ‘Regional features of Belarusian icon painting in the 16th–18th centuries’. She has a number of publications on the history of Belarusian icon painting.
He graduated from the Belarusian State University (Faculty of History) with a degree in ‘History (Ethnology)’ in 2010. He received his master’s degree in ‘Ethnography, Ethnology and Anthropology’ at the Belarusian State University in 2011. He defended his master’s thesis that time. Dmitry Monich has been working in the museum since 2012.
He is the secretary of the attribution council and a member of the working group to organize and control museumification in the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus. He is a postgraduate student of the Center for Research of the Belarusian Culture, Language and Literature of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. He studies Belarusian painting in the late 18th – the first half of the 19th century. He specializes in the art of Jan Damel.
He graduated from the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts (Department of History of Belarus and Museology) in 2011. He received a master’s degree in museology, conservation and restoration of historical and cultural objects in 2013. He is given a master’s degree in cultural studies. He finished his postgraduate studies in 2017. He is a custodian of the collection of ancient Belarusian sculpture.