Presentation of new acquisitions of the
Traditionally on the last day of December the State Hermitage opened
a one-day exhibition where guests were shown a few most interesting items
acquired by the museum in the outgoing year.
In 2010 such items were the donations by N. Khalili and A. Kozintsev.
Silver vessel – a donation by professor Nasser Khalili
A silver vessel, a donation by professor N. Khalili, was acquired by
the Oriental Department of the State Hermitage in June 2010.
This small vessel (20 cm high) in a shape of a bottle with a round trunk
and a bottleneck with a figured ending has two Turkish seals. One has
a signature with the name of the sultan Abdul Hamid II (1876-1909) and
a signature aside – "standard 90"; the other has a word – "I
confirm". A vessel was made in Istanbul particularly notable for
works by Greek and Armenian silversmiths. While it has no inscriptions
attesting for a national identity of a silversmith, it is most likely
to have been made by an Armenian jeweller.
A vessel, which resembles a vase now, originally had a high bottleneck
and by its form resembled typical oriental aroma vessels or rose water
vessels. A change in a vessel’s form dates the last quarter of the 19th
century when a bottleneck was shortened. At the same time seals bearing
the name of the sultan Abdul Hamid II (1876-1909) were put to confirm
that this vessel was made of silver.
In the East it is customary to treat guests with coffee and
sweet rose water served in small silver or glass vessels. Such rose
water vessels were used not only in secular situations but in church
ceremonies as well. Among samples of similar vessels of the 19th
century are a vessel from the prophet Ilya monastery on Santorini
island and an aroma vessel from the collection of the Benaki
Museum in Athens. Such usage of the Hermitage vessel is testified
by its embossed decor. Walls of the vessel’s trunk, decorated
with images of roses, in recessed cartouches have relief compositions
Christ in front of the archpriest Caiaphas and a piece
of episode The Transfiguration of Christ. On the other two sides
there are two large relief figures of a two-headed eagle
beneath a crown.
Both episodes are interrelated and reflect the text of the Gospel of
Matthew, 26, 57-66 and the Gospel of Mark, 14, 53-64.
After the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus Christ was brought
to the archpriest Caiaphas and unlawfully convicted, for convicted were
not acts but a certain person, and Jesus Christ would be blamed
for whatever her would have done. The episode Christ in front
of the archpriest Caiaphas is extremely rare in works of
applied art and appeared here by will of the vessel’s customer. A presence
of two-headed eagles under the Byzantine crown testifies
that the vessel was made for the Ecumenical Constantinople Patriarch.
Following the collapse of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, the two-headed
eagle became an official symbol of the Constantinople Patriarchy.
Its marble image is available above the entrance to the patriarchal
church of St George in Istanbul. The vessel’s belonging
to the patriarch is additionally attested by the episode
Miracle of St George included in the composition
The Transfiguration of Christ. The Patriarch was not only a religious
leader of the orthodox people in the Turkish Empire but also
a supreme judge and a respondent in all secular affairs
of the orthodox population to the sultan. It was for this reason
that the Turkish government often exiled disagreeable patriarchs putting
them aside of the throne. Presumably, the vessel donated by professor
N. Khalilil was made approximately in the mid 19th century
for the patriarch Anthimus IV whom the sultan put aside from patriarchy
for three times, and was restored under the patriarch Joachim III
who was put aside from the throne for two times. For both patriarchs the
episode of unfair judgment of Caiaphas was symbolical.
By all parameters a new silver vessel of the Hermitage is a unique work
of post-Byzantine art closely related to the history of the Constantinople
patriarchy in the 19th century.
Icon God the Almighty on the throne (King of Kings) – a donation
by professor Nasser Khalili
An icon donated by professor N. Khalili is a work by a Russian artist
of the second half of the 19th century and is made using a mixed technique
(wood, levkas, diverging pattern, tempera, oil, gilding).
Depicted on the icon is Christ as the archpriest seated on the throne.
By his right hand he is blessing, by his left hand he is holding the gospel
which reads: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and
I will give you rest" (Matthew 11, 28). An inscription over the Christ’s
head reads: "Lord the Almighty".
Presumably, the icon was included in the Jesus composition. Christ the
Almighty is a central figure in the iconography of Jesus Christ
which presented him as the Heavenly King and Judge. King
of Kings is the customary epithet of Christ in the Apocalypse
(Revelation 9:11-17). There is a separate iconographic
type of displaying Jesus Christ as King of " Kings
and Lord of Lords" (1 Tim. 6:15).
The icon is multi-colored and decorative. Christ’s countenance is expressively
extended, softly modeled. The throne is a symbol of the Universe, the
entire visible and invisible world and, above all, the kingly glory of the Savior.
Palmira grave relief – a donation by A. Kozintsev
The Palmira relief, a donation by A. Kozintsev, son of the prominent
Russian director Grigory Kozintsev, was acquired by the Oriental Department
of the State Hermitage in September 2010.
This relief of the second half of the 2nd century AD
is a limestone gravestone with a relief semi-figure
portrait of a bearded man and an inscribed name of the deceased.
In 1975 the relief was displayed at the Hermitage’s exhibition
Byzantine art in the USSR collections.
The State Hermitage stores quite a large collection of monuments of ancient
Palmira, a powerful Syrian city-state invaded and plundered
by Roman legionaries. One of the most remarkable items of this collection,
which gained world recognition, is the Palmira Rates: a stela
containing decisions, written in Greek and Aramaic, of the local
senate on taxes which were imposed on citizens, customs duties,
prices for basic goods. The Hermitage collection also includes more than
a dozen of grave reliefs.
A gravestone with a portrait of a bearded man is a rare
and very significant addition to the museum’s collection of Palmira
antiquities. Unlike other Palmira reliefs containing inscriptions in Aramaic,
it is mainly valuable for the inscription made in Greek.
M.Piotrovsky, Director of the State Hermitage, at the opening
In front of Icon Lord the Almighty on the throne (King of Kinds)
At the exhibition