The School of Novgorod.
During the eleventh and twelfth centuries the art in Kiev, Vladimir and Novgorod could be labelled “Byzantine-Greek.” Truly Byzantine icons do not exist inside Russia; those which may have shown the characteristics of Byzantine purity are difficult to identify because they are buried underneath recent re-painting. Examples of those which have been restored are the famous Our Lady of Vladimir, brought from Constantinople to Kiev in the early twelfth century and the Vernicle image of the Saviour, both of which in pre-revolution times were the treasured possessions of the Uspenski Sobor, Moscow. As Bunt observes these are different from subsequent Russian icons which show “stylistic abstraction” because they betray “a tentative seeking after what may be called naturalistic effect.” They are also less coloured, more monochromatic which sets them apart from the icons produced by the so-called “School of Novgorod” painters and later artistic movements. The Novgorod School commenced at the start of the fourteenth-century and flowered in the following two centuries. Novgorod had its share of Greek artists working for the city; these would pass on their knowledge and skill to Russian artists who though initially copied Greek models eventually produced a national style. Russian icon painting takes on a style and character of its own with the appearance of the monk Andrei Rublëv (1360s- 1427/30) in the late fourteenth-century. Now considered to be Russia’s greatest icon painter, Rublëv works are shrouded in mystery. But the work that is confidently attributed to Rublëv is the icon of the Trinity ( above) which shows a blending of asceticism and Byzantine mannerism. To understand the stylistic characteristics of the Novgorod School it may help to quote the summary by the Russian art historian Rovinski: “The design is clear-cut, the lines are long and straight; the figure is usually short- seven to seven and a half heads in height; the face long; the nose drooping a little over the mouth; the robes painted in two colours- or their various parts outlined in thick lines of black and white; the ozhiviki, or fine white lines round the eyes, on the forehead and nose and also on the joints of the hands and feet are one of the outstanding attributes.”
Next week we shall look at icons in more detail: their origins, their manufacture and technique, their spread to Russia, and the iconography of Christ, Mary and the saints.
 Bunt, Russian Art, 81.
 Ruvinski, quoted in Bunt, Russian Art, 83.