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Museo delle Icone

The Museum of Byzantine Icons

Noah's Ark

The Scuola di San Nicolò dei Greci (1678, by Longhena), next to San Giorgio dei Greci is now part of the Hellenic Centre for Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Studies, the only Greek research centre outside of Greece proper (there used to be many more Greeks in Venice than there are today).

Its collection includes a few works rescued from Constantinople before the Ottoman conquest in 1453, but mostly the icons date from the 16th–18th centuries, pointing up both the glories and the limitations of late Byzantine art as artificially preserved in Venice.

Most conspicuous is its iron-clad conservatism – the Orthodox Church, after all, never looked upon its icons as art but as objects of devotion that reflect the spirit of heaven, and one of the tenets of Orthodox faith is that fashion or style never changes up there. But their conservatism goes farther than that; in a corner of one rare and remarkable 15th-century Nativity, there is a girl pouring water from an amphora who could have stepped off an ancient Greek vase.

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Museums and Galleries

Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Image by The Hellenic Institute