Russian Icons. Gunnar Savisaar’s Collection



Two exhibitions of icon art are on display in the Kadriorg Art Museum: Estonian Icon Painting in the Kadriorg Palace and Russian Icons. Gunnar Savisaar’s Collection in the Mikkel Museum.


The objective of the exhibition Estonian Icon Painting is to introduce religious icons from various Estonian collections as a little-known, yet significant part of the centuries-long spiritual legacy of Orthodox believers in Estonia: Russians, Estonians and Setos. The heritage displayed in the museum’s halls forms a visual line exemplifying the various development stages of Estonian icon painting, its characteristic traits and ties to the mentality and aesthetic of different eras.


“The notion of the Estonian icon might seem not only debatable, but even unthinkable; nevertheless, the display of 16th to 20th century icons attempts to justify the use of this concept,” says the author of the exhibition, Nikolai Kormashov. “The abundance of schools and styles shows the wide variety of possibilities in the unified Orthodox tradition. Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian religious images share a unique iconography, which began with the Seto icons in the 17th century and developed into the 20th-century icons from Gavriil Frolov’s school.”


“The exhibition of Estonian icon painting is Kormashov’s personal exhibition, even though he is not involved in it as an artist, but as an expert on religious iconography, and he has spent decades on the study, restoration and collection of icons,” said Aleksandra Murre, the curator of the exhibition. “His work has resulted in a wealth of material on the art of icon painting and has shaped artists’ points of view.”


The exhibitions include works from private collections, museums (the Art Museum of Estonia, Estonian History Museum, Hiiumaa Museum, Pärnu Museum, Võru County Museum and Russian Museum in Estonia) and Orthodox churches in Estonia.

The exhibition Russian Icons. Gunnar Savisaar’s Collection gives an overview of the best works in the collector’s treasury of 17th to 20th century icons, which include religious images with well-known iconography, as well as icons with uncommon subject matter. The display includes examples from famous Russian icon painting schools, such as the Moscow, Yaroslavl, Mstyora and Palekh schools, as well as the iconography of the Old Believers from the Lake Peipus region.