A bit of Ethiopia in Clinton at the Museum of Russian Icons

May 7, 2017

The Museum of Russian Icons is opening a new mini-exhibit, From the Vault: Icons of Ethiopia, on Saturday, May 20, with a special members-only reception on Thursday, May 18. This exhibit, which will run through August 13, features a mix of Ethiopian icons, silver hand crosses, and artifacts from the Museum’s collection dating from the 19th and 20th century. Many of the icons were purchased from Ikon Gallery in Berlin, Germany between 2011 and 2014 including a Mother of God fresco, from the late 18th century that had been removed from the wall and transferred to canvas. “This very rare icon is one of the great treasures of the Museum’s collection,” notes Museum Curator Kent Russell.

Mother of God, 18th century. (Courtesy photo)

Ethiopian iconography, which didn’t appear until the 16th century, is easily recognized by the stylized and graphically bold figures with large, almond-shaped eyes painted in bright and vivid colors. These icons could be found in monasteries, churches, and the homes of the wealthy.

A newly acquired “magic scroll” will also be on view in the exhibit. This traditional Ethiopian art form is based on ancient beliefs that illnesses and other crises were the work of demons. A cleric of the Ethiopian Church would create the scroll, customized to the height of the patron and inscribed with healing prayers, and stories of saints and angels triumphing over Satan. They were written in Ge’ez, the liturgical language of Ethiopia. The scrolls were believed to have protective and healing powers, and were always carried by the owner. Russell says, “The practice of creating and using magic scrolls continues today, despite attempts by Church officials to eliminate what they see as a superstitious tradition.”

Next up in the main first floor gallery is Fantastic Beasts in Iconography, a family-oriented exhibit which will explore natural and unnatural creatures in icons and their symbolic meanings. The exhibition opens on June 3 with a special Family Day featuring animal-themed games, stories, crafts, snacks and face painting.


First Thursday: Trivia NightThursday, May 4, 6:00-7:30PM, FreeFree admission from 4-8pm on the first Thursday of each month.Test and expand your knowledge of Russian history and culture. We’ll be playing in teams and will have a broad range of questions. Bring your own team, or be matched with others when you arrive. Geared towards adults and interested teens. Refreshments will be available by donation.

Gallery Tours: Reading between the LinesSaturday, May 6, 11:30AM & 1:30PM, Wednesday, May 10, 11:30, Thursday, May 25, 1:30PM,Free with admission.Museum registrar, Laura Garrity Arquitt, will explore the different forms of symbolism used by iconographers to convey a complex story or message.

The Boston Matryoshka Club’s MA-MAtryoshka Festival Sunday, May 14, 1:00 – 5:00PM, Adults $15 in advance, $20 at the door, Children 3-17 $8 in advance, $10 at the door. Please note: Tickets can only be purchased on www.eventbrite.com. Search MA-MAtryoshka. The Russian Matryoshka Club presents its second annual MA-MAtryoshka Festival. Featuring Barynya Balalaika Duo, dance, art, crafts, international food, vendors, a mobile spa & sauna and more. Festival tickets include free same-day admission to the Museum of Russian Icons.

Zoo New England: Endangered Species of RussiaSaturday, May 20, 1:00PM, Free with admissionIn observation of Endangered Species Day, an educator from Zoo New England will present a program suitable for all ages. Seating is first-come, first-served.

Contemporary Russian Literature Book GroupSunday, May 21, 1:00-3:00PM, FreeThe group will discuss Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (translated by Olena Bormashenko). This superb science fiction classic was the basis for Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Stalker. New members are welcomed. Please call 978.598.5000 x115 with questions.

More about the Museum of Russian Icons

The Museum of Russian Icons inspires the appreciation and study of Russian culture by collecting and exhibiting icons and related objects; igniting the interest of national and international audiences; and offering interactive educational programs. The Museum serves as a leading center for research and scholarship through the Center for Icon Studies and other institutional collaborations. It is the only museum in the US dedicated to Russian icons, and it is the largest collection of icons outside of Russia.

Museum hours: Tue. - Fri., 11AM to 4PM, first Thursday of the month to 8PM with free admission after 4PM, Saturday and Sunday 11AM to 5PM, closed Mondays. Admission: Adults $10, seniors (59+) $7, Students $5, Children (3-7) $5, Children under 3 Free. For more information please visit www.museumofrussianicons.org.


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