“Religious Art from Russia to Greece”, The Benaki Museum, Athens,
December 14 – February 11, 2018
A large number of Russian icons and ecclesiastical furnishings are kept in monasteries, churches and collections in Greece. These important but as yet unknown works of art offer a valuable testimony not only to the history of religious art in Greece but also to the cultural interaction and political ties between Russia, the Balkans, and Eastern Mediterranean in the early modern era, from the beginning of the 16th until the end of the 19th century. The wide distribution of Russian religious artworks in the Greek communities and religious centers was achieved through a composite nexus that penetrated the whole stratification of both societies. Starting from the Tsar and the exchange of formal diplomatic gifts to the zeteai, petitions for financial support addressed by the Greek monasteries to the Russian orthodox, as well as the trading activity of Greek and Russian merchants.
The exhibition shed light to the various aspects of the phenomenon, focusing on the movement of objects and their reception by and integration in a new ethnic, religious and cultural environment. The various paths and diverse forms of reception and adoption in the Greek world was explored, as well as issues of dating of the Russian artworks and attribution to Russian workshops.
Some of the most significant museums in Greece lent masterpieces for this exhibition. Among them, of particular importance are icons and works of art coming from historic monasteries and churches, where they had been deposited as votive offerings and gifts. As such, these works testify to the international radiance and theological authority of Greek monasteries in the Orthodox world.
Text source: The Benaki Museum
Featured image on top and gallery of images: Benaki Museum, “Religious Art from Russia to Greece”, photo credits: Dimitris Giavasis