This incomparable and unusual museum lies in the ground of the Andronikov Monastery, which was founded in the 14th century and long considered one of Russia’s most important religious centres, involved in many of the country’s defining historical and cultural events.
Within the walls of the monastery is the Cathedral of The Saviour, built at the start of the 15th century and decorated by the legendary icon painter Andrei Rublev. His celebrated works take centre stage in the museum, too.
The museum’s collection also contains the greatest icons gathered from all over central and northern Russia. Here you’ll find the richest collection of icons from the Moscow, Tver’ and Northern schools of the 14th to the 19th century. Experts also praise the fragments of monumental religious art and the ancient wooden sculptures on display.
This unique museum is the resting place for some of the most precious examples of Russian art.
During the last century, interest began in the restoration of ancient icons, and many of these ancient masterpieces were discovered under rubbles. Surprisingly, they were very well preserved. Icons were usually encased in rich frames of gold or silver, encrusted with precious stones. The most important quality for an icon was its ability to transmit a feeling of ecstasy and heavenliness. To attain these aesthetic goals, the painters used established techniques: the images of the saints were executed in a particular range of colours, and always appeared to be flat.
Few of the names of these ancient craftsmen have survived to this day but, undoubtedly, one of the most famous and talented icon painters was Andrei Rublev, celebrated in Tarkovsky’s famous film, in whose honour the Museum of Ancient Russian Art is named. Andrei Rublev lived and worked as a monk in the St Andronicus Monastery, and is also buried here.
In addition to paintings, the museum features wooden sculptures and decorative and applied art. Medium-sized wooden figures of saints were likely used either as church interiors and, particularly, iconostasis decorations or as objects of prayer. Crosses and small portable icons from the museum’s decorative and applied arts collection, which were created with the use of bone and wood carving techniques, are also worthy of mention. Some icon frames and crosses are made of silver, and some articles are further decorated with enamel and inlaid with pearls and precious stones.