The exhibition “...To the Glory and Praise of the Lord...”. Signed and dated works of Belarusian sacred art of the XVI–XIX century”

The exhibition “...To the Glory and Praise of the Lord...”. Signed and dated works of Belarusian sacred art of the XVI–XIX century”
On December 1, 2023 at 17.00 at the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus (Karl Marx St., 24) the opening of the exhibition “...To the Glory and Praise of the Lord...”. Signed and dated works of Belarusian sacred art of the XVI–XIX century” will take place.

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.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of searching for dated works in any genre of fine art; this information is especially important for objects created several centuries ago. The stylistic and technical details of a dated work make it possible to assemble a group of objects related to it, to arrange them in a particular sequence, and to trace the evolution of fine arts in the context of art history. In addition to the date of creation, there can also be information about the owners of particular items, the purpose of their creation and geographic location, which makes it possible to compile a “biography” of the work, and to incorporate it in the general history and culture of the region in a certain time.

The exhibition displays works of icon painting, altar painting, artistic metal, and manuscripts. The earliest of them is a copy of the Gospel, on the last handwritten page of which there is the year of copying from an earlier example (1568), as well as a shorthand inscription by Mikhail (Mikhey) Borzabagaty.

Signed and dated works of the 16th–19th century with inscriptions by the author or others associated with the work are rare and unique objects. A little more than 80 of them have been identified in the museum’s collection. The earliest dated icons belong to the first half of the 17th century; researchers associate their distribution with the development of the image of icon painter of the early modern period as an individual, as well as with the importance of the commission. The majority of signed icons dates back to the 18th–19th century: Virgin Hodegetria. 1718; St. George and the Dragon. 1736; The Assembly of the Archangel Michael. 1743; The Virgin and the Child. 1750, etc. The inscriptions can be found both on the front side and on the back of the icons (Monogrammist A.W. The Virgin Hodegetria. 1750; Jan Wyszyński (?). Our Lady of Charity. 1792 (?). The purpose of the inscriptions is different. There are inserted inscriptions with the icon painter’s name, and there are those containing information about renewals. Thanks to that, icons become an important historical document of the era. The date on which the icon was entered into a church could be timed to coincide with one of the feasts of the church calendar. Large icons which were to be in view of everyone attending – those placed on the choir stalls or on the Sovereign tier of the iconostasis, and other church icons were signed most frequently of all.

Inscriptions can be short or quite extended. Their content became more informative in the 18th century: they recorded not only the names of icon painters, but also customers who commissioned them (Vasil Markiyanavich. (1730–?). “Deesis” 1758, “The Old Testament Trinity” 1761). Such works are very important: the discovery of every new name or another work by a renowned master makes the picture of the development of Belarusian artistic culture more coherent and holistic. The signature usually indicates the date of creation of the work, which allows researchers to better understand the logic of the artistic processes which took place in Belarusian icon painting of the 17th–19th century.

A separate part of the exhibitions is made up of the icons of the Feasts tier of the iconostasis of the Saint Nicholas Church in the city of Petrykau, Gomel region. They were created in 1838 at the time of the construction of the church, built to replace a wooden one, which burned down during a thunderstorm in 1772. It was rebuilt at the expense of the clergy and merchants by the names of Kebets, Margun, Karol and Karulski (as evidenced by the inscription on the back of the icon “The Last Supper”).

The exhibition also showcases 17th–19th century works of art casting used for church services: chalices, altar crosses, a tabernacle, on which one can see the dates of their creation and other accompanying inscriptions.

In total, the exhibition presents 37 signed and dated works of Belarusian sacred art of the 16th – 19th century, 15 of which underwent restoration in the workshop of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus and are being exhibited for the first time.

Exhibition curator is Lyubou Sysoeva, leading researcher at the Department of Ancient Belarusian Art of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus

frequently asking questions

Where can I park an automobile?

The closest parking spot is along the Karl Marx Str. (paid parking)

Can I enter in the outdoor clothes?

No, it is not according to the museum rules. Please, leave it in the cloacroom. 

What should I leave in the cloakroom?

All oversized bags, backpacks and packages larger than 30x40x20 cm, as well as umbrellas, must be checked in to the cloakroom or left in the storage room. Bottles of water cannot be brought into the exposition, you can drink water in the lobby or museum cafe on the 1st floor.

Сan i enter the exposition with a baby stroller?

Yes, we welcome visitors in the 0+ age category.