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Byzantine Icons Collection in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

Yuri Pyatnitsky, State Hermitage Museum, Fellow 2007–2008

The goals of my research project at Dumbarton Oaks were to make progress on the catalogue of Byzantine icons in the Hermitage Museum and to write several essays that will serve as the introduction to this catalogue. The resources at Dumbarton Oaks have permitted me to make great progress on my project. I have finished approximately ninety percent of the individual catalogue entries, including the complete bibliographies that can only be prepared efficiently in a library with comprehensive holdings in Byzantine studies. In addition, I have been able to read about new directions and approaches in contemporary art historical studies on Byzantine painting, especially icon painting of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This has allowed me to refine many of the attributions of icons I have been discussing.

One of my introductory essays, presented as part of my research report, concerning the history of exhibiting icons at the Hermitage Museum, will be published in a special volume of the journal Ars Orientalis, edited by Helen Evans. Furthermore, two of the catalogue entries I wrote, one devoted to a seventh-century niello icon with the Virgin and the other to a late eleventh-century icon of St. Gregory, have been developed into two articles which will be published in the annual journal of the Hermitage.

Relevant to my work was the opportunity to study icons and several other objects in the Dumbarton Oaks collection. These include the two micromosaic icons of the Forty Martyrs and St. John Chrysostom, and the painting of St. Peter. In this latter icon, I was able to read the letters of Peter's name on the keys around his neck. This detail had not been previously observed, but my reading is supported by John Nesbitt. We plan to publish this discovery together in the near future.