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Holy Russia: Russian Art from the Beginnings to Peter the Great Opens at the Louvre
A richly embroidered cloth icon that was owned by prince Dimitri Shemiaka (1444), representing a dead Christ and angels. Photo: EPA/Louvre.
PARIS.- As part of France's "Year of Russia" celebrations, the Louvre is hosting a major exhibition devoted to the history of Christian Russia, from the 9th to the 18th century.

The exhibition begins with the appearance of "Russians" in the historical record and the rivalries and power struggles between Latins, Vikings and Byzantines. There followed the early conversions in the Kievan Rus', culminating in the famed "baptism" of Vladimir the Great in 988. Rus' then became definitively Christian, borrowing its ecclesiastical model from Constantinople. Christian art flourished in Kiev, Chernigov, Novgorod, Pskov, Vladimir, Suzdal and elsewhere, wavering stylistically between Byzantium and the temptation of the Latin West.

After a hiatus during the 13th century with the invasion and subsequent domination of the region by the Mongols, Christian art returned in all its splendor in the major Russian centers, notable figures being the painters Theophanes, Rublev and Dionysius. This renaissance was accompanied by an unprecedented proliferation of monasteries and the gradual ascendancy of Moscow.

In 16th-century Moscow —the self-proclaimed "Third Rome" and "New Jerusalem"— the reigns of Grand Princes Basil III and Ivan IV the Terrible ushered in a new artistic golden age which reached its high point with the crowning of Ivan as Tsar (1547) and the establishment of the Moscow Patriarchate (1589).

After the "Time of Troubles" interregnum came a 17th century of conflict and revival—the rise of the Romanovs, the religious reforms of Patriarch Nikon —then the sweeping political and aesthetic changes imposed by Peter the Great.

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