museum visitors looking at traveling exhibits


The sacred images on view in this exhibition are of a kind once readily found in even the humblest homes of Russia, as well as its churches and public shrines. Centuries-old artistic conventions are juxtaposed with new, Westernized formal elements and vernacular interpretations of these new forms. For Orthodox Russians, icons served as more than just religious paintings; they were relic-like objects directly linked to the holy figures they depicted. They were seen as comforters and powerful guardians. Icons were the direct line from the real world to the spiritual and appeared everywhere in pre-Soviet Russia.


Since the 11th century, Russian icons remained remarkably unchanged in style, rooted in the Byzantine tradition of vivid color and flat perspective. By the mid 17th century there was a great schism in the Orthodox Church that split into two major divisions—the conservative “Old Believers” who kept the traditional forms and rituals, and the State Church, which was more open to change and Westernization. During the 18th century came the ascension of the Romanov tsar Peter the Great and his creation of St. Petersburg as a “window to the West.” As a result some icons began showing the influence of Western European renaissance paintings created centuries earlier. As the years passed, State Church icons exhibited increasing realism. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, one of Stalin’s main agendas was to abolish religion. In the spirit of revolution and through intimidation, thousands of families voluntarily destroyed their icons or gave them to government officials to destroy or sell in the Western market. Many were used for scrap lumber or firewood; others were defaced. Amid the turmoil, thousands of people fled Russia for Western Europe and the United States. They took their Orthodox religious roots with them and saved many icons from destruction. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country encouraged the foreign sale and export of icons from the Romanov era.


This exhibition introduces the public to these beautiful and complex sacred objects and demonstrates the rich variety of styles and techniques used during this period.

St. John the Forerunner
St. John the Forerunner

early 20th century. tempera, oil, gold leaf/wood; 18 x 11 in.

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 Holy Prince Vladimir
Holy Prince Vladimir

"The Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Great Prince Vladimir". late 19th. oil/wood; 10.5 x 8.5 in.

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Carved Cherub Head
Carved Cherub Head

19th century. wood; 9.75 x 8.25 x 3.75 in.

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St. John the Forerunner
St. John the Forerunner

early 20th century. tempera, oil, gold leaf/wood; 18 x 11 in.

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installation of traveling exhibits holy art

Installation at the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, Winter Park, FL.

Concept by Rachel Frisby. Partial collection exhibited October 2013 - April 2014.

". . .Our visitors were captivated by the rich colors and gilded details, and was especially impressive during the holiday season. The collection had a tangible weight and cultural legacy that could be felt when viewing the exhibit; truly powerful objects. What I particularly enjoyed was that both secular and religious audiences appreciated the Icons as art [. . .]. Beyond their stunning visual impact, every icon had a layer to explore and hidden symbolism ripe for educational interpretation and programming."

Rachel Frisby, Curator

The Polasek Museum


Brevard Museum of Art (Foosaner Art Museum), Melbourne, FL

Pensacola Museum of Art, Pensacola, FL

Hearst Center for the Arts, Cedar Falls, IA

Durham Western Heritage Museum, Omaha, NE

Biblical Arts Center, Dallas, TX

Visual Arts Center of Northwest Florida, Panama City, FL

Gallery at the American Bible Society, New York, NY

Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL

Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, MA

Loveland Museum and Gallery, Loveland, CO

Gallery at the American Bible Society, New York, NY

Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, Laurel, MS

Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden, Winter Park, FL

Hearst Art Gallery at St. Mary's College, Moraga, CA

Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden, Winter Park, FL



September through November 1994

November 1995 through January 1996

December 1996 through January 1997

March through May 1998

December 1998

December 1998 through January 1999

June through October 1999

August 2000 through January 2001

February through May 2001

January through March 2002

April through June 2002

October through November 2002

April through June 2004

November through December 2004

October 2013 through April 2014











125 painted icon panels, wooden carvings and sand-cast metal icons dating from the 17th century to the early 20th century.


Moderate. Exhibit cases required for small objects. Exhibit cases not provided.


1250 - 1750 linear feet