Art Kaleidoscope

Between art and craft

Russian icon painter Simon Ushakov 1626-1686

Russian icon painter Simon Ushakov 1626-1686

Spas Emmanuil (Christ Emmanuel). 1668. The State Tretyakov Gallery. Work by Russian icon painter Simon Ushakov (1626-1686)

Russian icon painter Simon Ushakov
In the history of Old Russian fine arts this name stands alongside with the names of Andrei Rublev and Dionysius. According to GD Filimonov, the author of the first monographic essay on Simon Ushakov (1873), Ushakov was the first to look at icon painting as art. Ushakov was both an educator and, apparently, an able organizer, who for more than thirty years headed the artistic activity of all Russian state. Simon Ushakov demonstrated a new attitude to art and to the artist. It was a broader and freer nature of the world perception, conditioned by the general process of the development of Russian culture. Noteworthy, the biographical information about Simon Ushakov can be compiled from the well-known detailed information in the archives of the Armory Chamber. Thus, according the signatures on some icons, the autographs show that the real name of the artist was Pimen, and Simon is only a nickname. Besides, the inscription of one icon makes it possible to establish that Ushakov was born in 1626, and it is known that he died in 1686.

The Savior Not Made by Hands. 1658. The State Tretyakov Gallery. Work by Russian icon painter Simon Ushakov (1626-1686)

The Savior Not Made by Hands. 1658. The State Tretyakov Gallery. Work by Russian icon painter Simon Ushakov (1626-1686)

In addition, the researches discovered the origin of the artist – apparently, he was from the people of the towns. In one of his autographs mentioned relatives – several monks and one merchant. Another inscription still contains an inscription which says that Ushakov was a nobleman. It is not surprising, at that time the title of nobility for special services received other artists of the Armory Chamber – for example, Ivan Bezmin and Ivan Saltanov.

Simon Ushakov was not accidentally granted a noble title: in 1648-1664 he worked in the Silver Chamber, where he was considered the leading artist, and from 1664 to 1686 he was the first artist in the Armory. The earliest known Ushakov icon “Our Lady of Vladimir” dates back to 1652. It is a copy of the icon brought to Russia from Constantinople in the 12th century, and repeats its size. In this icon, the twenty-six-year-old master uses an unusually light bodily color in the painting of faces. And many years later Ushakov and his friend and associate Iosif Vladimirov in their treaties justify the need to paint “light-shaped” icons.

The Armory Chamber carried out artwork for the royal court: icons, parsons, banners, miniatures, plafonds, painted Easter eggs and “fun” – toys for the princes, decorated the royal tents, utensils, horse harness and the like. None of the preceding centuries has preserved as many names as the seventeenth century. And many famous artists worked in the Armory. Here formed a special style, according to the concepts of that time, the most progressive. One of the largest reformers of the artistic language, the central figure of this school was Simon Ushakov.

Meanwhile, the first icons, typical for the style of Simon Ushakov, relate to the Trinity Church in the Nikitnins. There is every reason to assume that the artist was a parishioner of this church, since his house was next door – also in China Town. Aspiring to “humanize” the traditional image of God, Ushakov uses a smooth chiaroscuro molding of his face and a light flesh color.

The artist was undoubtedly the central figure in Russian culture of the XII century, and even the house of Simon Ushakov in China-city was the true center of the movement of Russian icon painting. The place where took place serious discussions about art and the tasks of contemporary art.

Russian icon painter Simon Ushakov