Orthodox Icons

In 1926, Queen Marie of Romania traveled to the Pacific Northwest to dedicate Maryhill Museum of Art for her friend Samuel Hill. She carried with her a variety of art objects that became the nucleus of the museum’s permanent collection. Included in this material were some fine Russian icons. The icon collection has since grown—through donation and purchases—and now includes more than 25 items.

“Icon” is the Greek word for “image” and Orthodox Christian icons contain information that is presented in a concentrated visual format. Through the use of formal techniques and specific symbolism, they direct the hearts and minds of worshippers toward God. Icons are not merely decorative religious paintings; they are sacred objects that connect people to the figures that they portray. The ancient church affirmed that icons “partake of the nature of the original.” The images facilitate a two-way interaction: when individuals venerate them and use them for prayer, they receive spiritual benefit through the efficacy of the pictured people and events.

 

 

Above: Russia, Mother of God, Joy to All Who Suffer, 19th century, egg tempera on wood, 27⅜” x 22⅝”. Gift of Marie, Queen of Romania, Collection of Maryhill Museum of Art.

Left: Ukraine, Vladimir Mother of God, late 19th century, egg tempera on wood, 11¾” x 9½”. Collection of Maryhill Museum of Art