October 18, 2018, to January 18, 2019
The Sacred Art Museum of Funchal marked the National Day of Cultural Assets of the Church 2018, which is celebrated on October 18, with an exhibition of a set of icons in Funchal, collected throughout Europe over a period of years by D. Teodoro de Faria, Bishop Emeritus, for private devotion.
From the outset, given the nature of the museum that houses it, the exhibition was an exercise in dialogue between Catholicism and the sacred art of oriental tradition.
Organized principally to disseminate historical aspects and the deep spirituality of the icons, as a revelation of the invisible, this exhibition evoked the spirit of the Western (re)discovery of Orthodox art contained in private collections, museums or churches in Portugal.
The exhibition was internally curated by the Sacred Art Museum of Funchal, with the scientific collaboration of researcher and iconographer Irina Curto, coordinator of the Centre for Russian Art and Culture (CACR), which is integrated in the research centre ARTIS - Institute of Art History of the University of Lisbon.

The exhibition presented 70 icons, organized into three groupings. All the works exhibited are of Russian origin and date from the 18th to the 20th centuries, following the figurative and thematic tradition of the Eastern icons that, in a process of fusion and synthesis in the 5th century, spread from Byzantium into other regions – Greece, Crete, the Near East, North Africa, Egypt and the Slavic world – arriving in Russia in the 10th century where, with the initial commitment of King Vladimir, it has remained to this day.


The first grouping presented two major groups of icons that come together in an iconostasis set up in the exhibition space. The iconostasis is the structure where the icons are placed according to predefined themes, also forming a passage between the central nave of the church and the altar through the central door – Gate of kings.

The first set presented some of the best-known iconographic representations of Christ, particularly, the Holy Face (Mandylion), the Christ Pantocrator, the Intercession (Deesis), along with others that relate to His childhood – Birth of Jesus, Presentation of Jesus in the Temple – and Jesus as an adult – Baptism of Jesus, Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, Jesus Expelling the Sellers, Crucifixion, Resurrection, among others.

The second set displayed the iconography of Our Lady, which is part of the five subgroups that comprise the different representations of the Virgin, made over the centuries, from a first portrait of the mother of God, which, according to legend, was made by the Evangelist St Luke. In fact, representations of the virgin could be found: Hodegitria - one who shows the way - Orante - one who raises her hands to heaven in prayer -; Eleousa - Virgin of Tenderness -; Panachranta - Virgin enthroned with her son in her arms - and Aglosoritissa - The mother of God with the roll of the law.

Grouping Two encompassed two sets of icons.

The first set refers to the Images of the Saints and includes some of the main names venerated in the Orthodox world: the Prophets of the Old Testament, St. John the Baptist, the four Evangelists, the Apostles and some miracle workers, such as St. Nicholas, and others, such as St. Mitrofan of Voronez, of special devotion in Russia.

The second set included icons that refer to the twelve main festivals in the Orthodox world, eight of which are dedicated to Christ and four to the Virgin Mary. The menologies are the annual calendars where the feasts of the saints notable for their exemplary lives are marked.

3rd Grouping: HOW IS AN ICON MADE?

The third set of the exhibition show how the order of making an icon is an exercise that is technical, rooted in a traditional and millennial repetition of rules and coded composition processes, and at the same time, spiritual, because the act of painting a sacred image is, in itself,a religious practice that involves the spiritual preparation of the painter or iconographer who, through shapes and colours, proclaims and transmits the Mysteries revealed by God to men.


In parallel to the exhibition, guided thematic tours were organized for the various publics, school and catechism groups, in particular. Conversations and painting workshops were held to introduce the techniques of painting on wood, not only with tempera, more closely associated with the temporary exhibition, but also oil painting, as found in the permanent collections of the MASF.