Art and Faith

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Mikhail Nesterov. The Most Holy Mother of God of Tenderness. 1909

The Most Holy Mother of God of Tenderness

Mikhail Nesterov

1909

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This is an example of the iconography executed by the great artist Mikhail Nesterov for the Marfa-Mariinskoye Obitel (Martha and Mary Convent) in Moscow. He also designed the habits of the sisterhood. Of course, it is not in the “approved” “Byzantine” style. Oh, dear! Let’s all shudder together in unison! No doubt, my faithful readers know my opinion on “Byzantine” iconography! Well… it hasn’t changed one whit since the last time! I remember a recent Anglo-Saxon convert excoriating me for using “Mother of God” instead of “Theotokos” and for championing “Western” icons. Firstly, we do NOT say “Theotokos” in Russian, we say “Bogoroditse” (She who bore God, the Godbearer). We also say… GASP! …”Bogomater” (Mother of God). Therefore, in English, “Mother of God” or “Godbearer” do quite nicely. As for “Theotokos”, that is an precious affectation best discarded. As for the complaint against “Western” icons, it was made by a person ignorant of Russian art history, so, as a Christian, I must extend forgiveness (to the person, not to the idea… that’s still absurd!). If Grand Princess St Yelizaveta Fyodrovna the New Martyr approved of Nesterov’s take on iconography, so do I! I do daresay that the blood of a martyr outweighs all the pseudo-scholarship from the usual cast of suspects.

BMD

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