Orthodox icons, typically made with egg tempera on wood panels, feature a stylized representation of the divine against a golden background, symbolizing the intangible and mysterious world of heaven. Icons, an integral part of worship in the Orthodox Church, offer us a glimpse of the divine and transcend ordinary, earthly reality.
Retablos, on the other hand, are religious images painted in oil on industrial pieces of tinplate. They depict an idealized likeness of the divine against blue skies, symbolizing truth and heaven, and facilitating a human connection with God and the saints. This unique and richly varied artistic tradition flourished in Mexico during the nineteenth century.
Guest curated by Dr. Elizabeth Calil Zarur, the exhibition will shed light on the understudied iconographic and ideological contrasts between icons and retablos, contextualizing the traditions of devotion in Latin America and the Eastern Orthodox world through comparative artistic methodologies. Despite their differences, the mutual influence and inspiration of Eastern and Western Christian art is apparent in both icons and retablos.
The exhibition is grouped into four themes: the joy of the Annunciation; the loving tenderness of the Mother and Child; the suffering and death of Jesus on behalf of humankind; and documented miracles, or ex-votos. This installation encourages visitors to compare these sacred paintings and to explore these two styles of devotion through diverse materials, themes, and artistic expressions. All of the exhibition materials will be available in English and Spanish.
The Museum of Russian Icons and the University Art Museum at New Mexico State University (NMSU) are caretakers of two significant collections, both portraying religious subjects which conform to theological principles and traditional iconography. The Museum of Russian Icons is home to the largest collection of icons outside of Russia; while NMSU maintains the largest collection of nineteenth and twentieth-century Mexican tin retablos of any U.S. museum.
On view: March 2—August 27, 2023
More information: museumofrussianicons.org