Menil Museum opens Byzantine, Russian Icons exhibit

By by dianna wray/
Nov. 16, 2011 at 5:16 a.m.

I went through a phase when I was a little obsessed with tsarist Russia. I was fascinated by those gilded times, when everything, even the religious icons, seemed to be covered in gold.

It turns out there was a reason those icons are so pretty - icons play an important role in the Eastern Orthodox religion, offering a more direct connection to the divine. Everything in the image is meant to represent something, from the hairstyles to the color of the clothing of the various depictions of Jesus, Mary and the saints.

The religion is meant to grab the senses, my high school history teacher would say, and these biblical images certainly do that. They're so beautiful you can't help but look at them.

In fact, because of the way they are painted, if you stare at them long enough, it starts to feel as if they are looking back, which is both neat and just a little creepy.

If you've never seen icons, now you've got the chance.

The Menil Museum in Houston has opened its impressive collection in an exhibit called "Imprinting the Divine: Byzantine and Russian Icons." The collection offers more than 60 Greek and Russian icons spanning 600 years of the Eastern Orthodox religion.

The Menil is one of my favorite art museums, because not only do they have wonderful exhibits, but also admission to the entire collection, which can only be described as huge, is free.



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