Andrei Rublev

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Rublev, Andrei

 

Born sometime between 1360 and 1370; died 1427 or circa 1430, in Moscow; buried in Andronik Monastery. Russian painter; founder of the Moscow school of painting.

Biographical information about Rublev is extremely meager. Raised and educated in a secular environment, he became a monk as an adult, entering St. Sergius Trinity Monastery or, according to some studies, Andronik Monastery. His work was rooted in the artistic traditions of Muscovite Rus’. Rublev was also well acquainted with Byzantine and South Slavic art.

Rublev’s world view was strongly influenced by the great national awakening in the late 14th and early 15th centuries—a period marked by a profound interest in moral and spiritual problems. Within the framework of medieval iconography, Rublev’s works embodied a new, exalted understanding of human spiritual beauty and moral strength. These qualities characterize Rublev’s Zvenigorod icons (The Savior, Apostle Paul, and Archangel Michael, all c. 1400 or the second decade of the 15th century, Tret’iakov Gallery), whose simple, flowing contours and broad brushwork suggest the techniques of monumental painting.

Circa 1400 (according to other studies, c. 1412 or 1427), Rublev created his masterpiece, the icon Old Testament Trinity (now in the Tret’iakov Gallery), in which he imparted profound poetical and philosophical content to the traditional biblical subject. Departing from traditional canons, he placed a single chalice—a symbol of sacrificial death—in the center of the composition, repeating its outlines in the contours of the angels that surround it. The central figure, who symbolizes Christ and occupies the position of sacrifice, is marked by an expressive contrast of dark reds and light blues and by a delicately orchestrated combination of golden ochers with soft blue-grays and greens. Inscribed within a circle, the composition also contains marked circular rhythms, whose harmony produces an almost musical effect. The Trinity was planned for both distant and close viewing, and each view reveals in a different way a wealth of tones and virtuoso brushwork. The icon’s compositional and coloristic harmony is the artistic expression of the work’s basic idea: self-sacrifice as the highest state of the spirit, creating the harmony of the world and of life.

In 1405, Rublev, Theophanes the Greek, and Prokhor of Gorodets painted murals for Blagoveshchenskii Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin (the frescoes have not survived). In 1408, Rublev, Daniil Chernyi, and other artist-craftsmen painted murals (which have partly been preserved) and icons for the monumental three-tiered iconostasis of Uspenskii Cathedral in Vladimir. This project represented an important stage in the development of the high Russian iconostasis. The most significant of Rublev’s frescoes in Uspenskii Cathedral is The Judgment Day, in which the traditionally grim scene has been turned into a celebration of the triumph of justice, asserting the spiritual worth of man. Rublev’s works in Vladimir attest that by 1405 he was already a mature artist—the leader of a school of painting that he had founded.

In 1425–27, together with Daniil Chernyi and other artists, Rublev painted frescoes for Trinity Cathedral of the St. Sergius Trinity Monastery; he also painted icons for the church’s iconostasis. The icons, which have been preserved, vary in technique and artistic value.

With the start of new internecine wars in Russia, the harmonious ideal of man that had formed in the preceding period found no grounds in reality. Rublev’s work reflected this crisis. In a number of his paintings he introduced dramatic images, hitherto uncharacteristic of him (for example, Apostle Paul). His colors became more somber. In some of Rublev’s works the decorative element was intensified, and in others archaic tendencies appeared.

Some scholars consider Rublev’s last work to have been murals for Spasskii Cathedral at Andronik Monastery (c. 1427; other studies have dated them c. 1400; only fragments remain). A number of works whose origins have not been fully authenticated have been attributed to Rublev. These include the frescoes of Uspenskii Cathedral in Zvenigorod (late 14th or early 15th century; only fragments remain) and the icons The Vladimir Virgin (c. 1409, Uspenskii Cathedral, Vladimir) and The Savior in Majesty (1408, Tret’iakov Gallery). Also attributed to Rublev are some of the icons in the festivals register of Blagoveshchenskii Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin, including The Annunciation, The Nativity of Christ, The Presentation in the Temple, The Baptism, The Raising of Lazarus, The Transfiguration, and The Entrance Into Jerusalem (all c. 1399; according to recent research, the cathedral’s iconostasis is from Archangel’skii Cathedral in the Kremlin). Some of the illustrations in the Khitrovo New Testament (late 14th to early 15th century, V. I. Lenin Library of the USSR, Moscow) have been attributed to Rublev.

Rublev’s art is one of the high points of Russian and world culture. The Andrei Rublev Museum of Old Russian Art was opened at the Andronik Monastery in 1947.

REFERENCES

Alpatov, M. V. Andrei Rublev. Moscow, 1959.
Demina, N. A. “Troitsa” Andreia Rubleva. Moscow, 1963.
Lazarev, V. N. Andrei Rublev i egoshkola. Moscow, 1966.
Plugin, V. A. Mirovozzrenie Andreia Rubleva. Moscow, 1974.
Betin, L. V. “O proiskhozhdenii ikonostasa Blagoveshchenskogo sobora Moskovskogo Kremlia.” In the collection Restavratsiia i issledovanie pamiatnikov kul’tury, issue 1, Moscow, 1975.

L. V. BETIN