Russian Art from the Hulmer Collection

Cartoon for a Church Iconostasis
Artist: H. Tolmacheff (signed)
Russian, Nineteenth Century
Pen, Ink, Watercolor
353 x 479 mm
Allegheny College Collection No. 503
Provenance: Hulmer Estate No. 153

An iconostasis is a partition covered with icons that separates the main space of the church form the sanctuary area behind it. The iconostasis attained this form in the fifteenth century having developed from smaller partitions of the early Christian Church. These low screens (or even solid walls) served a similar purpose of separating the sanctuary from the nave and were covered by increasing numbers of icons. Yet, while the Western Church removed such screens during the sixteenth century, Russian iconostases grew to include a total of five tiers. The increasing number of icons became arranged according to a hierarchical system similar to that used on church walls. At ground level, small icons for personal devotion are used either as gifts to the church or as representative of an individual's patron saint. This is thought to establish a unique religious relationship in the church and with God. As one spiritually progresses up the Iconostasis, he or she attempts to reach God (the highest tier) through the saints and angels, prophets and patriarchs, and the Virgin and Child. Iconostases thus became symbolic transition points between the sacred sanctuary and public space. From top to bottom are shown:

Tier 1, Old Testament Patriarchs flanking an unusual God the Father holding the infant Christ.

Tier 2, Old Testament Prophets flanking the Virgin and Child.

Tier 3, Eighteen Great Feasts, also seen in the Festival Icon

Tier 4, Deisis, Saints and angels with Christ in the center between Mary and John the Baptist, at prayer for the world at the time of the Last Judgment.

Tier 5, Icons for direct personal veneration. At this level, three doors pierce the iconostasis. The center, or Holy Door, opens onto the altar, the left into the Prothesis and the right into the Diakonikon.

Home |  Madonna |  Saints |  Christ |  Easter Egg |  Faberge Timeline |  Russian History |  Iconostasis |  Festival Icon |  Typological Art |  Gallery |  Glossary |  Links |  Credits

Hulmer Collection Home
These icons and their respective images and information belong to Allegheny College, located in Meadville, PA. Neither the images nor the information concerning them shall be used for any reasons other than private, non-commercial viewing purposes. Please contact us if you wish to use the images for any other reason.

This page has been researched and compiled by Justin P. Leous, with additional research provided by the original exhibition catalog text.

Allegheny College Home Page

Hulmer Home Madonna Christ Saints Easter Egg Faberge Timeline Iconostasis Festival Icon Typological Art Russian History Eric Hulmer Glossary Gallery Links Credits