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



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.


Sunday, 13 July 2008

Mikhail Nesterov. Étude for “A Wounded Soldier”. 1915

Étude for “A Wounded Soldier”

Mikhail Nesterov



This is a soldier of the tsarist army, wounded in World War I. I find this picture to be a wonderful allegory of our Church in America at present. It’s wounded, it’s weakened; oddly enough, by those claiming to be friends. However, one can see that the soldier isn’t despairing; he hasn’t lost hope. Neither have we. People such as Alexander Schmemann thrust a bayonet into our vitals; yet, we still live on, and we’re ready to fight again. In fact, there’s a deepening cleavage between we “ethnic” Orthodox and some recent converts (one need only look at the writings of Joseph Honeycutt and Frederica Matthewes-Greene to see the difference). We wish to “go home”, whereas they wish to “play at Church” and try to use the Church as a laboratory for their notional ideas. That sounds much like the Catholic lefties of the 60s (no mistake, for Schmemann was friendly with radical Catholics). We’re wounded, yes, but we wish to rejoin our proper regiment and fight under our traditional banners. As for those who wish to do otherwise, I say, “Go, go in peace, and don’t bother the Church. The rest of us are going home where we belong”.


Thursday, 8 May 2008

Mikhail Nesterov. The Soul of the Russian People. 1916

The Soul of the Russian People

Mikhail Nesterov


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