The Russian Gnadenstuhl
This paper investigates a curious Western iconographical detail on the famous 'Four-Part Icon' in the Moscow Kremlin Annunciation Cathedral: the winged Gnadenstuhl. Painted just after the 1547 coronation of the first Russian Tsar, Ivan IV the Terrible, the innovative Four-Part Icon became a major element of the Russian icon controversy in mid-sixteenth-century Moscow. The paper shows that the winged Gnadenstuhl in the first of the four parts of the icon combines Western iconographies of the Throne of Mercy and the cruciform seraph. It is argued that they were appropriated not in order to introduce Western ideas to Russia, but to challenge them. Moreover, it is suggested that such appropriations, characterised as 'visual polemical quotations', were not unique to the Four-Part Icon; rather, they may have been of particular significance in the artistic interactions between Eastern and Western Christianity. Textual and iconographic analysis reveals that the image of winged Gnadenstuhl was appropriated and invented with the specific purpose of making the target of the Four-Part Icon's visual polemics recognisable. That target was Western compassionate spirituality, which the Orthodox linked with the use of unleavened Eucharistic bread in the West. The paper highlights the significance of the so-called 'Azyme Controversy' which erupted before the mutual excommunication of Rome and Constantinople in 1054, offering an introduction to this topic and tracing the divergent development of Western and Eastern Eucharistic Trinitarian iconographies in the light of the ensuing debates
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: University of Cambridge, Newnham College
Publication date: December 1, 2016
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