Room 14. Russian Culture in the 14th – Early 16th Centuries

cases 1-2
The artifacts of scholarship, icon-painting, applied art presented in the exposition show the level of Russian culture development in this period. The cultural upsurge of Russian lands in the 14th and 15th centuries is reflected in the development of regional chronicles compilation. You may see the chronicles of Tver, Novgorod and Pskov in case 1. The best traditions of applied art were restored. Samples of minor plastic arts are presented in case 2.

cases 3-5
The recommencement of stone church building was a clear indicator of the cultural upsurge in Rus. This is evidenced from the details of the decor of Moscow churches exhibited in cases 3 and 5. A fragment of white masonry with extant fresco painting deserves special mention. This architectural detail belongs to one of the first stone churches erected on the territory of the Moscow Kremlin in the 14th century under metropolitans Peter and Alexis.

Local icon-painting schools were also booming. On the wall over the cases there are demonstrated the best samples of the Russian icon of the 14th and 15th centuries stored in the Historical Museum collection. The oldest artifact of Novgorod icon-painting is the image «Boris and Gleb» of 1335 A.D. One of the most beautiful icons of the Pskov school called «The Fiery Ascension of Prophet Elijah» was painted in the early 16th century.

Like literature, painting served, above all, the dominant idea of the epoch – consolidation and rallying of Rus confronted by the fierce enemy, the idea of spiritual revival and upsurge, for without it any struggle would have been vain and futile. Russian art celebrated and praised spiritual leaders. Thus, Sergius of Radonezh, one of the most outstanding figures in Russian history and culture who stood at the cradle of Russian spiritual revival, is represented on the icon «Mother of God Enthroned», going back to the early 15th century, at the most honourable place – Virgin’s Throne. Great icon-painter Andrei Rublev reflected the idea of Rus consolidation in his creative work with special power. Hanging on the room’s wall is the icon «O1d-Testament Trinity» from the monastery of Mokhrish in the land of Vladimir, dating back to the early 16th century. This is the earliest known repetition of famous «Trinity» by Andrei Rublev. The artist found a new compositional solution for representing the plot of the icon, having encircled three separate figures.

case 4
Close by in case 4 there is the Andronik Gospels created especially for The Monastery of Our Saviour and St. Andronicus in the early 15th century. The book is notable for being adorned by a painter from the circle of Andrei Rublev.

case 7
In case 7 there are famous literary works of the 14th and 15th centuries celebrating the victory of Rus at Kulikovo Field. On the upper shelf is one of the 6 extant records of Zadonshchina created right after the battle by one of its participants. In imitation of The Tale of Igor’s Campaign the author very emphatically describes the exploit of Russian people, concluding his work with the words: «Tsars are no more willing to campaign against the land of Russia, they no longer make fun of it. Their trumpets are silent, and their voices are no longer heard».

Another ancient literary work is the Tale of Mamai Carnage written in the early 16th century. The story was so popular in Rus even in the following centuries that 101 records of it have lasted out. Placed in the exposition is an illustrated record of the early 18th century. It is known that The Saga underlay the first Russian textbook on history published by Innocentius Gizel in the 17th century.

cases 8-11
A large section of the exposition (cases 8-11) is devoted to forming a cultural image of the Moscow Principality that would soon become a centre of putting together a common Russian national culture. Between cases 7 and 8 you may see one of remarkable samples of applied art created by Moscow craftsmen – wooden carved gates of the church iconostasis in Monastyrshchina village where, according to a legend, the participants of Kulikovo Battle were buried. Fine carving is covered with gold foil.

The process of culture making in the Grand Principality of Moscow was based on preservation, assimilation and revival of the best cultural traditions of Old Rus and European countries.

In case 8 there is the All-Russian Moscow Chronicles compiled in the late 15th century. The artifact’s name is rather indicative. Muscovy as a political centre of the new unified state regarded its history as part of the all-Russian historical process, proving the right to rule over Rus by its being a successor of Kiev and Vladimir.

cases 12-13
In central cases there are exterior needlework samples of the 14th and 15th centuries. Embroidered icons – shrouds, gauzes, «ubruses» (shawls) – became widespread in Rus. The art of exterior needlework required highest skills. The faces of saints were embroidered with a hair’s thick silk thread in a «splintered» fashion: when putting in a stitch with a needle the previous stitch is splintered thus creating an illusion of painting.

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