The National Gallery – Museum of Christian Art
CELESTIAL GUARDIANS OF THE HOME
Collection of Rumen Manov
23 May – 25 September 2017
Opening and Catalogue Presentation: Tuesday, 23 May, 18:00
The Crypt at St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
For the first time at the Museum of Christian Art, we present an exposition in which all the exhibits are from a private collection, while the realisation of the catalogue was entirely financed by the collection’s owner, Mr Rumen Manov. There is a long prehistory behind this event. As early as 1982, Mr Rumen Manov donated the first item from his collection to our museum. Since then, he has donated another five artworks; two of them—'The Most Holy Theotokos of the Life-giving Spring', from 1848, a work by Dimitar Zograf from Samokov, and the silver reliquary bearing the images of St Nedelya and St King Milutin, from 1861—occupy key places in the permanent exposition.
The latest initiative of Mr Manov is the exhibition, 'Celestial Guardians of the Home', with 105 selected works, all united by the idea of immersing ourselves in the world of our ancestors, peering into their home imbued with faith and Christian humility, and touching its most sacral element—the household altar. Let us try and be hushed in the corner of the room made smoky by the fireplace, and gaze at the home icon in front of which the entire life of the family passes: from birth to death, through the prayer for protection and forgiveness.
The collection has been accumulated over decades. It is distinguished by the wide variety of iconographic themes and high quality of the chosen works. Only a few exemplars have been included of the household triptychs associated with the mass production of the second half of the 19th century, whose naïve style was until recently the hallmark of the aesthetics of the home icon.
The main purpose of this exhibition is to emphasise the spiritual world of the Christian family and the place of the icon in front of which, through everyday prayer, shared joy and pain, the protection sought and the devoted expression of gratitude to God, the Mother of God and the patron saints, parents and children together turn their ‘home’ into a 'home church'.
The icons created for individual prayer—household iconostases, triptychs, diptychs, and pectoral icons—occupy the largest share. The second group includes monuments intended for the temple space and the needs of the monastic taxidiotes, but, due to various circumstances, including their falling out of cult use, their function changed and, as early as the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, some of them were adapted to the area of the home altar. The works of the two groups have a distinctive iconography predetermined by the place they occupy in the church or in the home, but their unifying element is the people who prayed before them.
Those works on display in the collection that date from the first half of the 17th to the second half of the 19th centuries, have different origins—Boboshevo region, Sofia and its region, the regions of Melnik, Tarnovo and Tryavna, Samokov and the region, the Plovdiv area, the Southern Black Sea, the Eastern Rhodopes and Strandzha Mountain. The colourful picture is complemented by the works brought by the holy pilgrims from Mount Athos, Corfu Island, the Peloponnese, and by those related to migrants from Northern Greece, Macedonia, and Romania. The result of this diversity offers the opportunity to experience the oeuvre of artists of different epochs and ethnos. Most of the icons have not been signed, but may be associated with the names of well-known icon painters and art centres.
Besides his noble idea of sharing this immense wealth with the public, Mr Manov donated twenty of the exhibits to the Museum of Christian Art. The team at the museum expresses its tremendous gratitude to Mr Manov for both his generosity and support in the research and popularisation of Christian art on the Bulgarian lands.
For further information:
0899 228 601