Brass icons: get to know them well



In March 1867 at the British Arcaeological Association in London the Rev. W. Sparrow Simpson held a conference at the inauguration of the exhibition entitled “Russian-Greek portable Icons of brass ”. [1]

Only-begotten Son - Brass Icon

Russian brass icon
Only-begotten Son of God
cm 9,9 x 7,5
2nd half of 19th Century

In his introductory remarks, among other things he also said: “The particular kind of portable brass icon which I now exhibit is in very general use amongst the Russian peasantry. The wealthy classes wear similar icons, but of a much more costly character, some are even of gold.

When a peasant is about to send his son to service in the army, he often takes from his neck the brass icon that he and his forefathers have worn, and places it, with his benediction, on the young soldier's breast. To the soldier himself the icon becomes a memento of his country, of his family, of his religion. Of his country, because it usually bears the effigy of some Russian saint, very frequently the patron saint, S. Nicholas; of his family, for this icon may have been an heirloom; of his religion, for when about to offer his prayers, he opens his triptych or diptych, and kneels before it as before a portable altar. He carries it, suspended round his neck, through the vicissitudes of a campaign; and when, his labours ended, he returns to his native parish, he often hangs this cherished possession upon the iconostasis of his village church, as a votive offering to commemorate his preservation.”

We have started introduction with what was said by the Rev. Simpson about 140 years ago because we find it interesting that, at the time these brass icons were still being produced, they were already being researched, studied and shown outside Russia.



[1] W.S. Simpson - ”Russo-Greek Portable Icons of Brass.” - The Journal of British Archaeological Association - pages 113-123 - London 1867

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