The Old Testament Trinity, Simon Ushakov, 1671

Description of the picture:

The Old Testament Trinity – Simon Ushakov. 1671. 124х90х3,5
   Below on the front side of the icon there is a Greek inscription: “… in the summer from Adam 7180, and from the Nativity of Christ 1671, October 16, the vanity of the tsar’s master named Pimen Fedorov, nicknamed Simon Ushakov, in the city of Moscow …”. Disclosed in 1927-1928 Received from the Gatchina Palace Museum in 1925, the State Russian Museum.

   Simon Ushakov was one of the central figures of Russian culture of the 17th century. Fame brought him not only the work of the artist, but also the diverse activities of the teacher, theorist, organizer. For many years, Ushakov led the Armory in Moscow, which at that time was the country’s main art center.

   One of the typical works of Simon Ushakov the icon of the “Trinity” created by him during the period of creative maturity. As the main compositional scheme, mainly in the construction of the central group of angels, Ushakov used the famous Trinity by Andrei Rublev. But at the same time, he changed her whole spirit and meaning so much that the viewer will feel the difference between the two works of the same name rather than the similarity. The main pathos of the Trinity of Ushakov consists in creating the appearance of a material, objective world. Angels with heavy figures and three-dimensionally painted faces sit on massive carved stools. The table is closely lined with various utensils – gold and silver bowls, tall glasses and plates, reminiscent of real products of Russian masters of the XVII century. A tree with dense foliage rises on the slope of a round hill, and the architectural structure has very specific shapes and is depicted in a linear perspective. Turning to the traditional plot and preserving the compositional scheme, as well as the old tricks in the transfer of folds of clothes, the artist of the XVII century mainly reinterprets the image. Putting emphasis on everyday moments, strengthening the material interpretation, he thereby gives the icon a secular character and at the same time deprives it of the spirituality and philosophical sound that make up the essence of Rublev’s work. This is especially pronounced in the interpretation of persons performed three-dimensionally, with the use of chiaroscuro, with small strokes laying down in shape. Bright with an even blush, equally serene, they do not contain a tense inner life, are deprived of poetic spirituality.

   Duality is also reflected in the style of the icon, which combines the different principles of perspective construction. The architectural background, apparently, is borrowed from Veronese’s painting “Feast by Simon the Pharisee,” familiar to the artist, probably from an engraving. A correct and clear perspective with a hint of lighting transmission comes into dissonance with the image of the table shown in the traditional reverse perspective, and with the figures of an angel located in the icon outside the real space. This attempt to combine the icon-painting tradition with a new style, coming from Western art, is one of the stages of the transition to a new painting, characteristic of the next stage in the history of Russian art."

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