From the time of Peter the Great's reforms to the beginning of the 20th century scarcely anyone showed concern for or interest in icons. At any rate their artistic virtues remained unnoticed. However, early Russian icon painting is a matter of legitimate pride for our century. And there is no reason to doubt that there existed in Ancient Rus a cult of icon as a sacred object.
Icon painting is so unlike the painting to which modern man is accustomed, that it can be understood only through the special teaching about icons.
In our days icons are exhibited on the walls of museums. But they were supposed to be with man in his daily life - in the place of honor in his log house, attached to a pole by the side of the road or a well. The majority was placed inside churches. They were a necessity to the daily church service. Icons are kissed they are expected to heal and work miracles.
One of those, who are known as outstanding icon painters, is Theophanes the Greek. He was a remarkable artist, who was important not only as the author of paintings, but also as one who influenced greatly the whole art of Ancient Rus. He was often referred to as a philosopher or a thinker.
We do not know what brought Theophanes to Russia. Few of great master's works have survived and whatever has survived through the ages is fragmentary. But even these few creations tell us a lot about the artistic value of works and their influence on Novgorod and Moscow icon painting.
Another world famous icon painter was Andrey Rublyov. His painting is the event of great rise of Moscow school of icon painting of the 15th century. He owed much to Theophanes the Greek with whom he worked.
But Rublyov was the antipode of Theophanes. The latter's sombre, dramatic images were always alien to him. Rublyov had other ideals. He attached utmost importance to man, active, ready to help his fellowman. For Rublyov this conception took a form of an angel, a saint, a hermit.
To Rublyov God was not the terrifying, mysterious, blind and merciless force he was to ordinary medieval mind. He humanized God and made him seem closer to the world. His Christ, his Paul, his Archangel are endowed with irresistible charm.
In climax of his power Rublyov created his most famous icon - the Trinity. On this icon we have the embodiment of the greatest sacrifice of witch love is capable with father, condemning his son to death. But the painter goes even further. He shows the act of submission with the son, prepared to sacrifice himself to atone man's sins.
Rublyov painted the Trinity in the moment of inspiration, given only to geniuses, and he produced the work witch is rightly regarded as the finest of Russian icons and one of the most perfect examples of medieval art.