Nikulina Elena

Style features of Karelian icons of the 15th and 16th centuries: on the material of the collection of the Museum of fine arts of the Republic of Karelia

Nikulina Elena (2021) "Style features of Karelian icons of the 15th and 16th centuries: on the material of the collection of the Museum of fine arts of the Republic of Karelia ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia V : Voprosi istorii i teorii hristianskogo iskusstva, 2021, vol. 43, pp. 26-39 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturV202143.26-39


This article gives a stylistic analysis of Karelian icons of the 15th — 16th centuries. Expeditions carried out in Karelia in the 1960–1970s by employees of the Russian Museum, Tretyakov Gallery, and Petrozavodsk Museum of Fine Arts discovered few, but unique monuments of church art of the early centuries. This group of icons was studied by prominent Russian scholars who carried out considerable research into this part of Old Russian heritage. By the 1980s, academic interest in early icon painting gradually waned, and later icons came to the fore. This circumstance was due to the need for reconstructing the full picture of the development of icon painting in the region. Therefore, for objective reasons, the authors of the fi rst scientifi c research did not consider the issue of stylistic succession. Today, an updated look at the monuments of the 15th and 16th centuries makes it possible not only to systematise the most important features, but also to state the idea of their further development in the late icon painting of Karelia. An analysis of empirical material showed that the infl uence of Novgorod was stronger than that of Moscow. This was determined by the policy of the capital regarding the territory, which was carried out indirectly through Novgorod.The strengthening of the northern borders favourably aff ected the economy and culture of Old Karelia. Strengthening cultural ties with the border regions of Vologda and Arkhangelsk signifi - cantly updated the icon painting of Karelian areas with new traits. Besides, the activities of local isographers of peasant origin formed a specifi c scenic approach and thanks to it the northern icons became recognisable. New features touched the composition, colour, drawing, some technological methods. The circle of the most revered saints was determined: these are Prophet Ilias, St. Nicholas, Theotokos. The structure of the iconostasis was also elaborated, this primarily aff ected the deisus and local rows. The painting was reduced to a simple colouring of forms without careful study, a cursory drawing, and sometimes it resembled techniques borrowed from wood carving. As a result, in the early icons, despite various infl uences, a unique picturesque manner was developed, which was subsequently refl ected in the later icon painting of the region.


peripheral lands, Karelian icon painting, oldest icons, stylistic continuity, influence of Novgorod and Moscow, artists of peasant origin, techniques of icon painting, colour, composition, vestments


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Information about the author

Nikulina Elena

Academic Degree: Candidate of Sciences* in Art Criticism;
Place of work: Petrozavodsk State Conservatory; 16 Leningradskaya Str., Petrozavodsk, 185031, Russian Federation;
Post: associate professor, Department of the humanities;
ORCID: 0000-0002-8817-5563;
Email: elena.nikulina@glazunovcons.ru.

*According to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011, the degree of Candidate of Sciences (Cand.Sc.) belongs to ISCED level 8 — "doctoral or equivalent", together with PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar.