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it fell in such abundance, that all trace of the CHAP. roads disappeared, and we lost our way once or twice before we arrived at
The place was half buried in snow, but we arrival at
Novogorod. managed to get to the Cathedral, curious to see the collection of pictures, idols of the Greek Church, which that antient building contains; and which, with many others dispersed in the cities and towns of Russia, were introduced long before the art of painting was practised in Italy. The knowledge of this circumstance led us to hope that we should make some very curious acquisitions in the country: and upon our first arrival from the Swedish frontier, we had given a few pounds to a Russian officer for his God; this consisted of an oval. plate of copper, on which the figure of a warrior was beautifully painted on a gold ground. The warrior proved afterwards to be St. Alexander Nevski: and as we advanced through the country to Petersburg, there was hardly a hut, or a post-house, that did not contain one or more paintings upon small pannels of wood: the figures of these were delineated, after the manner of the earliest specimens of the art, upon a gold ground, and sometimes protected
CHAP. in front by a silver coat of mail; leaving only
the faces and hands of the images visible.
When the religion of the Greek Church was
prohibited by the Second Commandment from
(1) In the first edition, it was erroneously written “first Christians." The earliest notice of the use of pictures is in the Censure of the Conncil of Illileris, three hundred years after the Christian æra. Among the ruins of some of the most antient churches in Palestine, the author found several curious examples of encaustic painting, of a very early date. One of these, from Sepphoris, near Nazareth, is now in the possession of the Principal Librarian of the University of Cambridge.
themselves Saints, and were worshipped by CHAP. their followers. The pictures they had brought were then suspended in the churches, and regarded as the most precious relics. Many of them, preserved now in Russia, are considered as having the power of working miracles. It would then necessarily follow, that, with new preachers, new pictures must be required. The Russians, characterized at this Manner of day by a talent of imitation, although without them in a spark of inventive genius, strictly observed not only the style of the original painting, but the manner of laying it on, and the substance on which it was placed. Thus we find, at the end of the eighteenth century, a Russian peasant placing before his Bogh a picture, purchased in the markets of Moscow and Peterslurg, exactly similar to those brought from Greece during the tenth; the same stiff representation of figures which the Greeks themselves seem to have originally copied from works in Mosaic, the same mode of mixing and laying on the colours on a plain gold surface, the same custom of painting upon wood, and the same expensive covering of a silver coat of mail; when, from the multitude and cheapness of such pictures, the precaution at first used to preserve them is no longer necessary. In other instances of their religion,
CHAP. the copies of sacred relics seem to be as much
objects of worship among the Russians as the originals themselves. This will appear from the description of Moscow. In the neighbourhood of that city there is a building, erected at prodigious expense, in imitation of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem ; having exactly the same form, and containing a faithful representation of the same absurdities.
The Cathedral of Novogorod, dedicated to St. Sophia, in imitation of the name given to the magnificent edifice erected by Justinian at Constantinople, was built in the eleventh century. Many of the pictures seem to have been there from the time in which the church was finished, and doubtless were some of them painted long before its consecration, if they were not brought into the country with the introduction of Christianity. At any rate, we may consider some of them as having originated from Greece, whence Italy derived a knowledge of the art, and as being anterior to its introduction in that country. Little can be said of the merit of any of these pictures. They are more re
markable for singularity than beauty. In the Supersti- dome of a sort of ante-chapel, as you enter,
are seen the representations of monsters with many heads; and such a strange assemblage
tions of the Greek Church.
of imaginary beings, that it might be supposed CHAP. a Pagan rather than a Christian temple. The different representations of the Virgin, throughout Russia, will shew to what a pitch of absurdity superstition has been carried. Almost all of them are to be found in the principal churches; and the worship of them forms a conspicuous feature in the manners of the Russians. Some of those pictures have a greater number of votaries: but, although they be all objects of adoration, yet they have each of them particular places, where, as tutelary deities, they obtain a more peculiar reverence; and sometimes there are small chapels and churches dedicated particularly to some one of these representations :—such, for example, as The VIRGIN OF VLADIMIR; The VIRGIN WITH THE BLEEDING Cheek; and The VIRGIN WITH THREE HANDS! The authors of the Universal History assign this last picture to the church of the Convent of the New Jerusalem. It was perhaps originally painted as a barbarous representation, or symbol, of the Trinity; and in that case it more properly applies to another convent in the neighbourhood of Moscow. The following story has, however, been circulated concerning its history.
An artist, being employed on a picture of the