Alter Icons

The Russian Icon and Modernity

Hardback or cased
Jefferson J. A. Gatrall, Douglas Greenfield
Published 28 Oct 2010
List Price £58.95



Passage into the modern world left the Russian icon profoundly altered. It fell into new hands, migrated to new homes, and acquired new forms and meanings. Icons were made in the factories of foreign industrialists and destroyed by iconoclasts of the proletariat. Even the icon’s traditional functions—whether in the feast days of the church or the pageantry of state power—were susceptible to the transformative forces of modernization. In Alter Icons: The Russian Icon and Modernity, eleven scholars of Russian history, art, literature, cinema, philosophy, and theology track key shifts in the production, circulation, and consumption of the Russian icon from Peter the Great’s Enlightenment to the post-Soviet revival of Orthodoxy. Alter Icons shows how the twin pressures of secular scholarship and secular art transformed the Russian icon from a sacred image in the church to a masterpiece in the museum, from a parochial craftwork to a template for the avant-garde, and from a medieval interface with the divine to a modernist prism for seeing the world anew.

In addition to the editors, the contributors are Robert Bird, Elena Boeck, Shirley A. Glade, John-Paul Himka, John Anthony McGuckin, Robert L. Nichols, Sarah Pratt, Wendy R. Salmond, and Vera Shevzov.

“Well illustrated and designed, this book is a significant contribution to the study of Russian culture.”

—W. C. Brumfield, Choice


List of Illustrations



Jefferson J. A. Gatrall

Part I: Empire of Icons

1. Strength in Numbers or Unity in Diversity? Compilations of Miracle-Working Virgin Icons

Elena Boeck

2. Between Purity and Pluralism: Icon and Anathema in Modern Russia, 1860–1917

Vera Shevzov

3. Nicholas II and the Russian Icon

Robert L. Nichols

Part II: Curators and Commissars

4. Anisimov and the Rediscovery of Old Russian Icons

Shirley A. Glade

5. Moments in the History of an Icon Collection: The National Museum in Lviv, 1905–2005

John-Paul Himka

6. How America Discovered Russian Icons: The Soviet Loan Exhibition of 1930–1932

Wendy R. Salmond

Part III: Intermedial Icon

7. Polenov, Merezhkovsky, Ainalov: Archeology of the Christ Image

Jefferson J. A. Gatrall

8. Avant-Garde Poets and Imagined Icons

Sarah Pratt

Part IV: Projections

9. Florensky and the Binocular Body

Douglas Greenfield

10. Florensky and Iconic Dreaming

John Anthony McGuckin

11. Tarkovsky and the Celluloid Icon

Robert Bird


Vera Shevzov

Selected Bibliography