PARSUNA (PORTRAIT) OF PATRIARCH NIKON
Parsuna (Portrait – persona - person) of Patriarch Nikon is one the most outstanding works of Russian Art of the XVII Century.
Patriarch Nikon (1605–1681), born Nikita Minov, comes from a peasant family and at the age of 30 took vows in the Holy Trinity Anzer skete of Solovetsky Monastery. In 1646, he impressed a seventeen – year-old Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich at a personal meeting and was left in Moscow and ordained an Archimandrite of the Novospassky Monastery, and on July 25 of 1652 he was solemnly enthroned the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. He was called “a special friend” of Alexei Mikhailovich and the “great sovereign”; he actually became the Tsar’s co-ruler, and imperiously interferes in secular affairs. The name of Patriarch Nikon is associated with the Church reform and construction of the famous monasteries: Iversky on Valdai, Godfather on the White Sea and the New Jerusalem on the Istra River. The rapid rise of Nikon's spiritual career ended with its fall: excommunication from the Patriarchate at the Moscow Sobor of 1666 and exile to the Ferapontov Monastery; imprisonment in the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery. Upon accession to the Throne of Tsar Fyodor Alekseevich, seriously ill Nikon was allowed to return to the New Jerusalem Monastery. He died en route. At the insistence of Tsar, Nikon was buried in the New Jerusalem Monastery as a Patriarch.
Parsuna was created by the craftsmen of the Armory in a unique technique that combines painting and appliqué of expensive silk and golden fabrics on a wooden base. In the end of XVII Century portrait adorned the palace of Prince V.V.Golitsyn, and after the disgrace of the Prince it was transferred to the Moscow Vysoko-Petrovsky Monastery – the tomb of the Naryshkins. It was included in “trophy” set of works from the Golitsyn’s domains that entered the Monastery along with other values and extensive land of the Prince.
Parsuna of Patriarch Nikon resembles the icon. The figure of the Patriarch is depicted on a plain background made of shiny silk taffeta. The stress is made on a gesture and the attributes symbolizing pastoral care and spiritual power: a staff, crossing a figure, and the pulpit. Bishop standing in full ceremonial vestment on the Bishop's ambo (pulpit) embodies the Christ himself during the liturgical action, corresponds to the real scene of the divine service. The three steps of the ambo, the three apples on the staff and the three crosses on the omophorion symbolize the Holy Trinity.
Extremely rare is the technique of appliqué of precious satin and velvet fabrics on a wooden base. In the XVII Century, thanks to extensive cultural ties with Poland, this technique became known in Russia, but was not widely used. The face and the hands are painted on satin in the European oil paint technique.
X-ray examination showed that under the coats of paint is the author's layer, which is visible on the hands and the eyes. The x-ray picture revealed a structural underpainting and the author's manner of grisaille painting. Tired eyes, with a strict gaze, slightly slanted lips of the sunken mouth of an elderly man are features probably observed in person create an unexpected and completely unknown tragic image of the Great Hierarch. The Image combined with the European technique of oil painting became a basis of creation of realistic art in Russia long before Peter's reforms.
Outstanding work of experts Of the Department of Scientific restoration of the SHM became a real feat of national restoration. Chemists, restorers of fabrics and oil painting had presented an exceptional class of chemical analysis and creative research combined with a high level of use of traditional techniques. The results of these studies suggest that Parsuna of Patriarch Nikon is a real encyclopedia of different materials and variety of techniques that characterize the skills of artists working in Russia in the late XVIIth Century.