The meeting of the Restoration Council had to be postponed
After a month and a half of staying in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior without a special climate capsule, the Trinity went to the Grabar Restoration Center. There, the fragile icon had to rest under the close supervision of specialists who promised to examine in detail the masterpiece of ancient Russian icon painting, draw a conclusion about the condition of the “Trinity” and discuss it at an expanded restoration council. It was scheduled for mid-September. But now the month is almost over, and still no advice. The silence suspiciously dragged on. Obviously, the fact is that the results of the Trinity survey are disappointing.
Alarming information was leaked to the media: more than 80 new significant changes were identified on the icon – violation of the paint layer, lagging of the wire and gesso. The crack between the boards – the most complex and long-standing “disease” of the icon, which has been unsuccessfully fought since the 1930s – has increased by almost 1 mm. This means that the soil and paint layer that lie on top of the boards crumble.
Let us recall that after the three-day trip of the “Trinity” to the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, 61 areas of gesso and paint layer lag were discovered, and from October 2022 to April 2023, another 10 new changes were identified. At the May restoration council at the Tretyakov Gallery, experts made an unequivocal verdict: the icon must be left alone, it must not be moved, otherwise this will inevitably lead to a deterioration in the condition of the fragile masterpiece. They weren’t listened to. And here is the result – Trinity’s disease is progressing. Let’s add up all the new “sores” and it turns out that over the past year and a half more than 150 new problems have appeared.
At the same time, a climate capsule for Trinity was never made. The Tretyakov Gallery has just approached Rosatom with a proposal to create a special climatic showcase for the icon: negotiations began in early September, the terms of reference and other details are being clarified. That is, the creation of the capsule has not even begun yet.
Meanwhile, the Tretyakov Gallery itself is being moved in every possible way away from the exhibit, which is still within the museum’s area of responsibility, despite the signing of an agreement between the Ministry of Culture and the Russian Orthodox Church on the transfer of the exhibit for free use for 49 years. However, the Tretyakov Gallery itself is now uneasy. The leadership there is changing: Elena Pronicheva removes the people of ex-director Zelfira Tregulova and appoints her own. In particular, in July, First Deputy Director Rinat Shigapov, who actually managed the gallery, left; it was he who signed the order to issue “Trinity” in 2022 for a trip to the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. His position was taken by Tatyana Sharshavitskaya, who had previously worked as director of the tourism development department in the Ministry of Economy (though only for a few months), and previously as deputy chairman of the Moscow Tourism Committee, advisor to the head of the All-Russian Exhibition Center, and headed the directorate of the Krasnaya Presnya park and the park in Odintsovo. A dark horse. At the same time, restorers and heads of departments specializing in the art of a particular period remained in their places. But the situation in general is tense. Will the Tretyakov Gallery experts decide again, after several unsuccessful attempts, to declare that the “Trinity” needs peace, and most importantly, will they be allowed to do this at the restoration council in the Grabar Center?
The Grabar Center itself remains silent. The latest news from there is a statement from the head of the department for scientific, methodological work and exhibition activities, Elena Prokhanova, that the date for the expanded restoration council is being agreed upon, but a closed discussion will take place around mid-September. The deadline has already passed.
At the same time, during the signing of additional agreements to the agreement on the transfer of “Trinity” to the Russian Orthodox Church, insurance was taken out (this is standard practice when transferring an exhibit anywhere). “Trinity” was insured for 15 billion rubles. Which is not so much, considering that 15 years ago the cost of “Trinity” was estimated at approximately the same as “Gioconda” – at 600 million dollars, which in terms of rubles at the current exchange rate is almost 600 billion rubles. Perhaps the insured event has already happened?
Experts from the country’s leading museums should take part in the restoration council. The July round table at the Institute of Art History, where more than a hundred experts gathered offline and online to discuss the situation with “Trinity,” became a kind of rehearsal. They all agree that the icon is in danger and could be lost, and they proposed a number of compromise solutions. Firstly, under no circumstances should you display an icon without a climate capsule. Secondly, exhibit it in the Trinity-Sergius Lavra in a separate room, where it is necessary to create special conditions, and not in the Trinity Cathedral, where there is simply nowhere to squeeze the capsule in and the conditions of preservation there will definitely be violated. Finally, organize a separate observation group of restorers at the Lavra, which could monitor the condition of the icon on the spot on a daily basis, and not watch online, as the Hermitage monitors the condition of the Shrine of Alexander Nevsky. They are obviously ready to present the same thing at the restoration council at the Grabar Center. But are the Russian Orthodox Church ready to do all this?
It’s not clear yet. But in mid-August, a new executive director, Natalya Grigorieva, was appointed to the Sergiev Posad Historical and Art Museum-Reserve at Trinity-Sergieva. Until April of this year, she headed the Novgorod State Museum-Reserve. Our own person at the federal level. Obviously, she must prepare the conditions on the spot for receiving the Trinity. This is a labor-intensive and slow task.
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