ICONS

CHRISTIAN ART COLLECTION


ICONS AND CHURCH PLATE

The Regional Museum of History – Shumen preserves a rich collection of icons, church plate and liturgical books that has been gathered for more than a century. The chronological frames of the collection begin with the colour frescoes from the 4th c. Byzantine basilica near the village of Han Krum (the earliest Christian images discovered in Bulgaria), include the icons of the Preslav painted ceramics and reach the works of some of the most renowned Bulgarian icon painters in 19th c. Some of these artifacts were discovered during archaeological researches, others belonged to Shumen families, which handed them to the museum, collected during expeditions or just salvaged.

Most of the icons in the collection (more than 160) are from the period of the National Revival. The works of the two icon painters from Shumen – Nikola Vasilev and Vasil Bedelev are most interesting. It is known that the first one was born in Shumen in 1843 and studied painting in Macedonia and Greece. He decorated churches in the regions of Shumen, Varna, Sliven and Dobrudzha. Many of his icons – the icons of the Royal Door The Virgin and Child, Jesus Christ, Saint Demetrius, Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, his three self-portraits, as well as his paint-mixing utensils are part of this collection. Vasil Bedelev worked in the second half of 19th c. in the regions of Shumen and Varna. His icons The Annunciation, The Virgin with Child and Saints, Jesus Christ and Saints, and The Holy Panteleimon and Saints are part of the collection too. Some of the icons are signed by both artists and this means that for a time N. Vasilev and V. Bedelev worked together.

The Holy Christening icon, painted on the front part of a sheatfish cranium, is unique in the icon painting tradition. It dates back to 1830 and is worked by Kostadin Vitanov – an icon painter from Tryavna.

There are many anonymous icons in the collection. The others bear the names of the icon painters Yonko pop Dimitrov, Anastas zograf, hajji Anagnost. The collection comprises also: three icon stands with Tryavna woodcarving and icons of N. Vasilev and hajji Anagnost; 18th and 19th c. imprints from the Vatopedi and Saint George monasteries in Mount Athos and the Rila Monastery; primitive icons from home icon stands; Russian icons clad in metal covers and pectoral icons carried by the Russian troops during the wars with Turkey.

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