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‘Wrestling with Angels’: New exhibit at Museum of Russian Icons


"Jacob Wrestling the Angel", Nikita Andrejev, Courtesy of Museum of Russian Icons

Stephen Beale - published on 06/28/19

The exhibition takes its name from Jacob's encounter with an angel.

An icon museum in Massachusetts is holding a special exhibit, Wrestling with Angels, which opens in July. 

The exhibition features 46 contemporary icons by iconographers from the Prosopon School of Iconology, which was established in New York and New Jersey in 2000 by Vladislav Andrejev, a Russian native. 

The Museum of Russian Icons is located in Clinton, in the central part of Massachusetts, about an hour’s drive from Boston. The museum is open Tuesday to Friday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free on the first Sunday of each month. 

The exhibition will run from July 19 to October 27 of this year. 

The exhibit will display icons as they would appear in an Orthodox church, starting with Old Testament scenes in the narthex, followed by icons of Jesus and Mary, the Theotokos or God-bearer, in the nave around the congregation. The final set of icons are those associated with the iconostasis in front of the altar. Those icons focus on feasts as well as “icons of mystical subjects” that foreshadow Christ’s Second Coming, according to a news release describing the exhibition. 

The exhibition name is taken from one of the first icons that will greet visitors, which recalls Jacob’s encounter with the angel in Genesis 32. The angel gives Jacob a new name, Israel. But when Jacob asks for his opponent’s name, he receives no response. Afterwards, Jacob realizes He has seen “God face to face.” The first name of the iconology school is Prosopon, which is taken from the Greek word for face. It refers to God “turned toward the world,” according to the museum. 

A major element of the exhibition is the deisis, which is Greek for supplication. It consists of five large icons with Christ in Glory in the center and Mary and John the Baptist on either side. 

The exhibition will coincide with a series of events at the museum including an iconography course, lectures on the craft of icon writing, and a presentation on depictions of God the Father in iconography. For more information, visit the museum website.

The Museum of Russian Icons was founded in 2006 by Gordon Lankton, a local manufacturer. It boasts the largest collection of Russian icons in North America at more than 1,000 items. Many are well-preserved examples of icons of the Theotokos and Christ. The museum also has a number of unique icons that may be less familiar to a Catholic audience. One example is the Mother of the Unburnt Bush, in which the burning bush of the Old Testament is seen as a type of Mary in her humanity carrying the divine. 

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