Unique seventeenth-century icon returns to Russia

Moscow, September 15, 2016


On September 9, 2016, an unique icon of the 1640's called “Resurrection – the Descent of the Savior into Hell with Narration of Festivals and Passions of Christ in Eighteen Border Scenes” which had been stolen from the Church of St. Nicholas Nadein in the city of Yaroslavl (a branch of the Yaroslavl State Museum-Reserve) was returned to Russia, reports the Moscow Diocese’s website.

Nikolai Zadorozhny, director of the Museum of Russian Icons, in close cooperation with both the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Culture brought the stolen masterpiece of art back to Russia. Archpriest Vladimir Silovyev, editor-in-chief of the Publishing House of the Moscow Patriarchate and chairman of the Art Study Commission of the Diocesan Council of Moscow, was among the members of the delegation which arranged the icon’s return to Russia.

Representatives of state departments and staff workers of the Yaroslavl State Museum-Reserve received the icon at Sheremetyevo International Airport.


Persistent efforts to find the precious icon continued for over ten years but with no result. In 2016, by a miracle of God it was found by Levon Nersesyan, research assistant of the State Tretyakov Gallery, in a private collection in Venice. As its owner was considered to be a bona fide purchaser, the monument which he possessed was not confiscated. The Museum of Russian Icons, which over the past ten years has gratuitously handed over nineteen formerly stolen works of art of the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries to state museums in Rostov, Veliky Ustyug, Ustyuzhna, and Murom, took the negotiations with the possessor, purchasing of the icon, and its return back home upon itself. The return of the “Resurrection – the Descent of the Savior into Hell” icon to the Yaroslavl State Museum was the twentieth such joyous event. Following long negotiations the owner of the antique gallery agreed to sell the icon to Mikhail Abramov, the founder and owner of the Museum of Russian Icons.

“First of all, the icon is unique because it has the exact address: it was stolen from the church and we are aware of which church and when it was painted and who it is connected with. Besides, it should be noted that there are not many works of art dating back to the 1640's. That was the beginning of the Yaroslavl style which developed from the mid-seventeenth century through its second half. In this icon we see archaic techniques which appeared late in the sixteenth century along with the developing Yaroslavl style. It is also unique as a point of reference: it was made at the same time as other paintings in church, perhaps even by the same painters, and therefore has a reliable time reference. There are very few artwork of this kind. It can be used as a ‘dating exhibit’ which will enable us to determine the time of creation of more obscure works of art,” deputy director of scientific research of the Yaroslavl Museum-Reserve Svetlana Blazhevskaya stressed.


According to director of the Museum of Russian Icons N. Zadorozhny, upon its return to its native country the icon will visit the Museum of Russian Icons to take part in an exhibition dedicated to its tenth anniversary (scheduled for late 2016). After the exhibition the icon will return to the Yaroslavl State Museum-Reserve.

“On receiving the icon our museum will hold an extended meeting of the restoration council with the participation of scientists from The Igor Grabar Scientific and Restoration Center, the State Research Institute for Restoration, and other museums. Together we will determine whether we need to prepare the icon before exhibiting or not. The founder of the Museum of Russian Icons Mikhail Abramov has already given his consent to cover all the restoration costs if needed,” N. Zadorozhny related.

Translated by Dmitry Lapa



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