Russian Icon Designs 2 Volumes

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See inside this book

by Gleb Markelov

Gleb B. Markelov, editor
ISBN 5890590049
Ivan Limbakh, 2001
2 volumes: Volume 1: 552 pp.; Volume 2: 636 pp. Size: 230 x 300 mm (9 x 11.8 in.); 500 black and white Illustrations, Hardcover.

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Russian Icon Designs 2 Volumes

Gleb B. Markelov, editor
The two volume set is titled, Russian Icon Design: A Compendium Of 500 Canonical Imprints And Transfers Of The 15-19th Centuries.

The text is edited by G. B. Markelov, who is known in Russia as a fine scholar, icon painter and member of the Ancient Literature Department of The Russian Literature Research Institute (also called Pushkinskii Dom). The two volumes comprising this book set contain 500 old drawings that were for many years searched out at various libraries, museums, archives and private collections in Russia. These books contain the amplest atlas of high-quality specimens of Old Russian drawing technique -- the technique that has never been thoroughly studied and duly appreciated.

Icon prorisi and perevody -- imprints and transfers -- which could be also translated as reverse and direct patterns respectively -- are drawings on paper which meticulously reproduce the outlines of icon compositions. Prorisi and perevody served as an additional source for creating strictly canonical images to many a generation of Russian icon-painters.

The book contains old iconographical subjects as well as subjects used in modern services. They are arranged according to the commonly accepted clerical hierarchy of images: the Holy Trinity, The Savior, the Virgin, St. John the Baptist, the Apostles, the Prophets and other characters of the Old Testament, the main Church Festivals, the most prominent saints, the female saints, the parable episodes, etc. Many icons are presented right next to other versions of the same iconographical "type" which sometimes reveal essential stylistic and theological discrepancies. Each pattern is reproduced in its full size and that renders the book a valuable source comparable to a facsimile edition. The majority of patterns have never before been published.

The plates are preceded by a Preface that provides information on the history of paper patterns in Old Russian Art, discusses the methods of making and using prorisi and perevody in traditional icon painting, and includes a bibliography and glossary of special terms. Each plate is followed by a corresponding attribution and a reference to its present location. A special section gives iconographical comments that clarify the meaning and the subject matter of each depiction. The book also contains various kinds of indexes for any kind of useful reference. Russian text is followed by complete English translation, except the appendix and notes sections which is Russian text only.

Availability: Out of print.

This description applies to both volumes of the book.

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Russian Icon Designs Vol II

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Below is an excerpt from the Preface of the two volumes:

Book of Icon Patterns contains the collection of old drawings, called icon prorisi and perevody (imprints and transfers), which had been worked out by icon painters for centuries. Prorisi and perevody represent a specific genre of drawing whose purpose is to preserve and multiply an outline of a flat image, mostly of an icon composition. Ideally prorisi and perevody of icons appear to be absolutely precise reproductions of the outlines of icon compositions on paper. Moreover, only strictly canonical images, sanctified by the Church, were selected for most of prorisi. One significant circumstance should also be mentioned here, namely, that the Church itself never and nowhere legalized icon prorisi and perevody or any other patterns used in original icons, with the exception of some rather ambiguous articles of "Stoglavy Sobor". One can only rarely find notes about this or that composition made by icon painters on the sheets of old patterns. Before describing the role and importance of the patterns made on paper for icon painting, it is necessary to provide the reader with a clear idea of this subject and the author's understanding of it. Some contradictions in grasping of the terms proris and perevod make it even more necessary. We are using the comprehensive explanation of these words, which belongs to an outstanding St. Petersburg connoisseur of icon painting and icon patterns, icon painter and restorer, an old-believer F. A. Kalikin (1876-1971). "If an icon-painter had to make a replica of an icon outline he delicately ground some black paint with garlic juice, then he made an outline of the whole composition of the icon with a squirrel hair brush, the outline being neither thinner nor thicker then the original. When the outline was completed, he took a blank sheet of paper, put it onto the just outlined icon and holding it with his left hand, he opened a part of the sheet with his right hand and slightly breathed on it to moisten a portion of the outline. Then he rubbed the moistened paper with his right hand and the black paint mixed with garlic juice left a negative imprint on the white paper. This very imprint of the negative outline is called proris. F. A. Kalikin defines proris as a negative imprint of the original outline, i.e., a proris gives a mirror or reversed image of an outline of the icon composition. Old icon painters also called it 'left' image.

In this book we will call an imprint on paper copied from a proris 'an icon transfer' ('a direct image'). To obtain this 'icon transfer' a clear moistened sheet of paper was placed on a proris, pressed, and as a result a reversed image with a direct picture was gained. Thus, an icon transfer or 'perevod' reproduces a direct image of an icon composition. Further in our book we will use the terms 'perevod' and 'proris' in the meanings mentioned.

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