The most famous ancient Russian icon, “Trinity” by Andrei Rublev from the collection of the Tretyakov Gallery, will be transferred to the use and ownership of the Russian Orthodox Church by the decision of Vladimir Putin. As reported on the website of the Moscow Patriarchate, the president did this “in response to numerous requests of Orthodox believers.” It is also indicated that the icon will be in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior for a year, and then it will be moved to the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. This is how the long-standing confrontation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the cultural community ended.
A day later, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia read the letter he sent to Anton Vaino, the head of the Kremlin administration, at the Synod meeting. There was no mention of any year of the icon’s stay in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The deadline was significantly reduced:
This year, the Trinity holiday falls on June 4. Taking into account the special historical and cultural value of this icon, I think it is correct this year to organize its bringing on the feast of the Holy Trinity from the Tretyakov Gallery to the Cathedral Cathedral of Christ the Savior of the city of Moscow, with the icon staying in this temple for two weeks, in order to ensure the possibility of access to to a wide circle of believers.
In the permanent exhibition of the gallery, in the place of the icon of Andrei Rublev, another “Trinity” is now hanging. It was created a century later, that is, in the 16th century. In the press these days, it is often mentioned that the Rublev icon is miraculous. This is, to say the least, a delusion. Her high artistic qualities were recognized even in ancient times, so it was decided to paint icons on this subject according to her canon. So there were many lists, that is, reproductions, but not exact copies at all. Do not be fooled: the replacement cannot be considered complete.
The new director of the Tretyakov Gallery Elena Pronycheva is silent However, her colleague, the director of the Pushkin Museum, Elizaveta Lykhacheva, who was also recently appointed to her post, spoke out: “It can be simply lost, it can fall apart: there are three boards, and they are not very well fastened together. “Trinity” is the main Russian contribution to Christian iconography – not a religious meaning, but an artistic meaning.”
For the first time, they tried to take “Trinity” for a prayer, back in 2008, under President Dmitry Medvedev, but this did not happen. The Patriarch’s request was not heeded. The gallery then referred to the fact that this is an extremely fragile monument, with an unstable layer of paint, and any movement could be disastrous for it. Moreover, at that time the argument of the second order could still be heard: this unit of museum storage is national property.
In other words, “Trinity” is not only for believers of the Orthodox faith. It is an object of cultural heritage for all. By 2022, the atmosphere in society had changed, and despite the negative verdict of the restorers and conservators, the icon was given to the Lavra for a day and a half in connection with the celebrations on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of the discovery of the relics of Serhiy of Radonezh. The organizers promised to be careful. However, the journey, albeit short, albeit in a gl sarcophagus, but with inevitable temperature changes, had an impact on the 15th century monument. The ego had to be strengthened. Only after the condition of the “Trinity” was stabilized, it was returned to permanent display.
Now the chairman of the Patriarchal Council for Culture, Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Pskov and Porkhov, also ures that the shrine will be kept “in accordance with the requirements of the Tretyakov Gallery.” On this account, the head of the Old Russian Art Department of the State Institute of Art Studies is not fooled Lion Lifshitz. He is one of the best connoisseurs of icon painting in Russia:
If “Trinity” is already released, why not release everything else?
– There is a significant threat to the safety of “Trinity”. Moreover, this is a threat to the destruction of the monument. Once Vladimir Vladimirovich was asked what happened to a famous submarine, and he answered that it had sunk. Now I can tell you the same thing. You can ume that “Trinity” will die.
– Maybe the Church at the current stage of its development will be able to provide proper conditions for this icon?
– No. She has neither specialists nor conditions. Except for words, there is absolutely nothing. This is pure adventure.
- After this sacrifice was made, is it possible not to worry about the fate of the other icons, because the Tretyakov Gallery has a rich Old Russian collection?
– You can’t be calm about anything. I can’t guess, but there is a threat that it will slowly come. The gate opens wide. If “Trinity” is already released, why not release everything else?
- Could the museum community not be outraged and defend this masterpiece?
Everyone unanimously confirmed that it is impossible to touch it. It was half an hour before the presidential decree appeared
– The museum community has been making huge efforts for a long time. At least since 2007, when this problem began to be actively discussed. But there are limits to the possibilities of art historians. The Tretyakov Gallery just held an extended Restoration Council. Specialists from the Hermitage, the Russian Museum and the Institute of Restoration participated in it. All of them unanimously confirmed that it is impossible to touch her. It was half an hour before the presidential decree appeared. The opinion of specialists was ignored.
- Do you know of cases when icons that were transferred to churches were returned to museums not for a short time, but almost forever, for one reason or another?
– There were no such precedents in my memory.
- That is, it is not necessary to count on this too?
– Of course, you can count on miracles. But these will be miracles, – says Lev Lif.
In 2012, in an interview with Radio Liberty, Lev Lif explained the reasons why Old Russian art in museum collections became vulnerable. Since then, the campaign has only gained momentum:
The Church now excludes culture
– If earlier we were talking only about immovable monuments, then now, and this was expected, everything is moving into the plane of movable monuments. All this is the result of an absolutely purposeful and completely understandable policy of dividing the entire society into cells based on ethnic and religious principles. Politicians turn religion into an ideological tool that replaces the concept of faith and the concept of culture. Now all the monuments that were in the foreground and symbolized the result of centuries-long spiritual development of the entire society, from which no sane person has ever excluded the church, are under threat. But the church, on the contrary, now excludes culture. For the people who determine the policy in our country, this is a very convenient position – the division of society and the destruction of what is the crystallizing core – he warned Lev Lif.
“Troitsa” has been located in Tretyakovka since 1929. This means that it has been seen by many generations of visitors. Out of concern for safety, the icon was never exhibited at third-party exhibitions. The ancient monument left Moscow only during the war, when it was evacuated to Novosibirsk.
If the fears are not allayed, the blow will be softened somewhat, the adviser to the president asked Vladimir Tolstoywho, however, stated that the transfer of cultural values of the Russian Orthodox Church “has a more sacred, symbolic character”:
“Apparently, indeed, some conditions have matured that lead to such decisions. But this should definitely not become a norm and a rule, and absolutely in exceptional cases only individual items can be considered.” – said Tolstoy.
It remains only to ume what conditions have “ripened” for the fact that the “Trinity” would need to be practically removed from the Russian Museum Fund. “Practically” – because nowhere is it stated under what conditions restitution is made. It is not excluded that it is the same as it used to be with other works. They were given to temples for use, but remained on the balance sheet and in the area of responsibility of museums.