Evfimy Chudovsky [Euthymius of Chudov Monastery]: 'On Icon Painting'

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This text dates from c. 1699-1700 and as such is one of the earliest and most significant essays in Russian religious aesthetics. It is the earliest work of Russian art criticism to have ever been translated fully into English: here it is presented unabridged, extensively annotated, illustrated and analysed. The author, the erudite, prolific and independent-minded Evfimy [Euthymius] (d. 1705), a cenobite from the renowned Chudov Monastery in the Moscow Kremlin, is highly original in his combination of Greek and Russian Orthodox iconographic traditions. Largely (but not entirely) opposed to allegorical, symbolical and secularised representations of holy figures propagated by some churches (including his own), Evfimy advocated a ‘realistic’ presence based on kataphatic theology. The article explores how God, Christ, the Madonna and saints are to be depicted in icon painting, incorporating as it does so the ideas expressed in early sixteenth century Russian (Church Slavonic) texts by Maximus the Greek and Joseph Volotsky. It also draws upon earlier Greek teachings on the veneration of holy images and nature of God, for example those of John Damascene and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. As such it makes a pioneering contribution to the burgeoning (from the 16th century) literary exegesis of the canon of Eastern Christian icon painting. Through this treatise, that is at once innovative and anachronistic, readers gain an insight into the philosophical-aesthetic debates within Russian Orthodoxy (and beyond) that helped shape the development of icon painting per se.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-402
Number of pages24
JournalArt in Translation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


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