Главная страница Исторического факультета МГУ   Главная страница электронной библиотеки истфака МГУ  

Visual Images of Patriarch Nikon: An Electronic Digital Gallery 1

Compiled by Kevin M. Kain, Ph.D. Texas A&M University-Texarkana

"Visual Images of Patriarch Nikon: An Electronic Gallery" consists of nearly fifty artistic depictions of patriarch Nikon and their full bibliographic citations.2 The gallery evolved out of my dissertation "Patriarch Nikon's Image in Russian History and Culture" (Western Michigan University, 2004) and embodies my main argument that Nikon's resonance in Russian history remains largely unrecognized because traditional histories – based on written sources and limited to Nikon's tenure as patriarch – fail to reveal his broader import by omitting analysis of artistic representations. Advancing the notion that visual imagery is an important, but oft neglected historical source, the gallery's most basic goal is to introduce viewers to a diverse sample of artistic materials depicting the patriarch. These images, especially when studied in the contexts of their creation, display and reception, provide important new insights into Nikon's enduring significance in Russian political, religious and cultural life.

Nikon, Nikita Minov (1605), is one of the most complex and controversial figures in Russian History. Born into a peasant family, Nikon quickly rose through the ranks of the ecclesiastical hierarchy to become the patriarch of Moscow and all Russia (1652-1666), the second most powerful position in the Muscovite state. Capable of pious acts of charity and humility, daring political maneuvers and dazzling displays of authority, his tenure in the church hierarchy coincided with major political and legal reforms which tore the fabric of Russian society. As patriarch, Nikon imposed of church reforms which led eventually the schism of the Russian Church. He founded three monasteries; the Iverskii (1654) the Cross [Krestny] and the Resurrection or "New Jerusalem" (1657). Nikon's actions evoked strong resentment among powerful elements in Muscovite society. In 1666, he was tried by a church council, removed from the patriarchal chair and sentenced to exile in a remote northern monastery. In 1681 Nikon was recalled from imprisonment, but died during the return journey. Nikon was officially rehabilitated shortly thereafter in 1682.

Nikon was an important champion of the visual arts who clearly understood the power and potential of visual imagery. On the one hand he staunchly defended traditional Russian icon painting. On the other hand, Nikon embraced the western-style portraits known as parsunae which became popular among the Moscow elite in the mid-17th century. In fact, Nikon established a reputation among his contemporaries for commissioning life-like portraits of himself. Two of these seminal images, "Parsuna of His Holiness Nikon, Patriarch of All Russia" (early 1650s) and "Patriarch Nikon with Clergy" (early 1660s), played important roles in shaping ideas about Nikon's physical likeness and his character. The original parsunae also served as inspirations for many of the artistic representations of the patriarch created in later years, a point made clear by the artwork presented here.3

Patriarch Nikon's extremely malleable and hotly contested image has broad and lasting significance in Russian culture. Nikon came to epitomize the Russian church hierarchy and to exemplify the unity between the Romanov dynasty and the Russian church. He also became the focus of ongoing resentment among Russian Old Believers, those who rejected the church reforms originally imposed during Nikon's patriarchate. In short, images of Nikon, both verbal and visual, reflect and shape discourses not only about the patriarch, but about larger issues in Russian history, especially those issues central to the relationship between church, state and society.

Since the 1650s, visual images of Nikon have appeared in a variety of artistic genres including icons, parsunae, portraits, stenopis [oil paintings on plastered walls], history paintings, engravings, lithographs, risovalnye lubki [hand-painted folk prints], miniatures, drawings, illustrations, sculpture, and archival photographs of non-extant art. The possibility to trace and analyze artistic representations of the patriarch across all genres of the visual arts and over a period of nearly 400 years is unique. Few, if any, figures in Russian history share this distinction. In addition to what they can tell us about the patriarch, the artistic depictions of Nikon offer materials for a concise case study of the visual arts in Russia.

The Gallery is part of a much larger digital archive containing nearly 2000 artistic images of patriarch Nikon.4 These images were assembled during nearly a decade of research conducted in leading Russian institutions, including the Historical, Architectural and Art Museum "New Jerusalem", the State Tret'iakov Gallery, the State Historical Museum, the State Museum of the History of Religion, the State Russian Museum, the Moscow Spiritual Academy's Repository of Art and Artifacts [Kabinet], Troitse-Sergieva Lavra, the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art, the Institute of Russian Literature, the State Public Historical Library, Russian State Library, Library of Russian Academy of Sciences, St.Petersburg and the Russian National Library, as well as in regional museums and functioning churches and monasteries. The continued development of this electronic resource, to be carried out in close cooperation with Prof. Leonid I. Borodkin and the department of historical information science, MGU, will involve the compilation of a comprehensive database of all known visual images of Nikon, including digitized copies of actual images and references to written records of art.

Visit the Gallery

1 The author gratefully acknowledges the ongoing interest, support, and cooperation of Prof. Leonid Iosifovich Borodkin, his colleagues and graduate students at the department of historical information science, MGU which made this project possible.

2 The images presented here were originally published in books, including biographies of patriarch Nikon and historical fiction, journals, descriptions [opisanie] of and guides [putevoditeli] to monasteries, as well as catalogues of museum and art exhibits. All, except four, were published in the pre-revolutionary period.

3 For images based on "Parsuna of His Holiness Nikon, Patriarch of All Russia," see, for example, Gr19_7; IZ19_3; and Port19_3. For those based on "Patriarch Nikon with Clergy," see, for example Gr19_2; Port19_2; and F20_1. For detailed analysis of the many visual images based on "Parsuna Patriarch Nikon with Clergy" see Kain, "Patriarch Nikon," 132-146; and "Izobrazhenie patriarkha Nikona v iskusstve XVII-XIX vekov" Nikonovskie chteniia v muzee 'Novyi Ierusalim,' sbornik statei (Moscow: Severnyi palomnik, 2002), 82-87.

4 I outlined the theoretical and practical aspects of this digital archive of images in "Obraz Patriarkha Nikona v rossiiskoi kulture: khudozhestvennye istochniki i elektronnye tekhnologii," Krug Idei vol. 8 eds. L.I.Borodkin and V.N.Vladimirov (Moscow-Barnaul, 2003), 61-114; and "Patriarch Nikon's Image in Russian Culture: New Sources, New Technologies and New Possibilities," Informatsionnyi bulleten' assotsiatsii 'Istoriia i Komp'uter' no. 30 (June 2002): 157-160.