The collection of Belarusian sacred art of the 16th – 19th century in the funds of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus is one of the largest in the country. It includes icons, altar paintings and sculptures, works of decorative and applied art, manuscripts and early printed books. A well-known feature of sacred painting is its anonymity, owing to the fact that the icon painter did not consider himself the creator of the work – he only carried out God’s will. Most of the icons have are neither signed nor dated. The names of some icon painters are known only thanks to written sources, but only a few works have the author’s signature.
An inscription on an icon, like on any other material source, gives the object a certain historical value, adds important information about the history of its creation and existence, and carries valuable information about the people and the time it was created in. Icons with inscriptions on them are instrumental to the attribution of church paintings and are of particular interest to researchers. That is why the organisers of the exhibition did not limit themselves to including only signed and dated icons as exhibits.
The exhibition is to showcase works with a wide variety of inscriptions; special plaques will also reveal the backs of icons, which are usually hidden from the eyes of visitors, containing inscriptions from those who commissioned and owned them, information about renewals performed, as well as other markings which can tell the fascinating history of the object.
Of the 37 signed and dated works of sacred Belarusian art of the 16th–19th century included in the exhibition 15 underwent restoration in the museum’s workshop and are being exhibited for the first time.
The exhibition will run until January 28, 2024.
Exhibition curator is Lyubou Sysoeva, leading researcher at the Department of Ancient Belarusian Art of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus