Yesterday, it was a great blessing to receive what was probably the most well-packaged parcel to ever arrive on the doorstep of anywhere I have called home, with a much-anticipated icon of the Saviour emerging from yard upon yard of bubble-wrap.
The bright and stylistically-solid icon is a product of the Vilnius School of Old Believer icon-painting, and everything, apart from the board, would suggest that it was painted by the renowned Pomortsy iconographer Ivan Ipatievich Mikhailov (1893-1993), whose century-long life was devoted to the preservation of traditional iconography. In Lithuania, Belarus, Poland and Latvia, his pupils continue to preserve and promote the traditions of the Vilnius School.
Many emigrees from the former empire – in Riga, Prague, Paris and other centres of Russian life in exile – looked to traditional icon painting, as the grip of debased westernised painting weakened, appreciating the importance of Old Believer icon painters and the collections of influential Old Believers in the rebirth of an authentic, canonical iconography.
Our Russian Church Abroad showed its appreciation for the Baltic Old Believer iconographic legacy, with the renowned Estonian born Old Believer iconographer Pimen Sofronov having taught iconography to Archbishop Anthony (Bartoshevich) of Geneva and Western Europe and Bishop Konstantin (Jesensky) of Richmond and Great Britain – both predecessors of Bishop Irenei.
The influence of Sofronov, through Bishop Konstantin can be seen in the icons painted by the late Igumen Seraphim of our former ROCOR parish in Birmingham, and the icon that arrived today reminds me of the icons in the Birmingham Podvorie chapel, sadly no longer part of our ROCOR.
It is a joy to see the newly arrived icon in the light of candles and lamps, venerated and an object of prayer and devotion, and I am pleased that it has arrived in time for Pascha: the Queen of Feasts.