Christ in the Dungeon

Discover rare wooden religious sculptures from 14 Russian museums in one exhibition

By Manege Central Exhibition Hall

Manege Central Exhibition Hall

"Savior in the Dungeon" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Christ in the Dungeon

The exhibition at Manege presents 37 wooden religious sculptures ranging from the mid-17th to early 19th centuries. They all depict a rare but significant subject in Russian Orthodox iconography, "Christ in the Dungeon" ("Midnight Savior").  The sculptures came from 14 museums throughout Russia, including the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Russian Museum, Perm State Art Gallery, and more.  The exhibition is curated by Semyon Mikhailovsky. 

Exhibition Project "Christ in the Dungeon"Manege Central Exhibition Hall

"Savior in the Dungeon" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

In the ante-room, visitors are met with a video of a gloomy forest and swinging trees similar to those that the sculptures were carved from. Manege's exhibition hall is in darkness as this is the only way that the drama of the subject can be truly understood; it is no coincidence that the secondary title for "Christ in the Dungeon" is "Midnight Savior".

The sculpture of the sitting Christ came from the Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Mary in the Orol settlement, and now belongs to Berezniki Historical Art Museum in the Name of Ivan Fyodorovich Konovalov.

Photographer: Nikita Shubny, sobaka.ru

Exhibition view. First floor (2020)Manege Central Exhibition Hall

First Floor

On the first floor there are sculptures on lattice pedestals filled with stones, separated by felt cloths. Felt represents the stone walls of the dungeon. Visitors hear the sounds of footsteps echoing through the dungeon, slowed-down choir music, and chains — this musical accompaniment becomes a necessary part of the exhibition.

"Christ in the Dungeon" (XIX c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

According to Evangelical texts, before he was sent to Golgotha (that is, before the carrying of the cross), Christ was desecrated, beaten, and crowned with thorns. Between these two events, during a short night, he waited in a dungeon. It is exactly this moment that is depicted in the exhibition.

The sculpture was acquired in 1939 from the Church of Archangel Michael in the Nelazskoye village, Cherepovetskiy district, Vologda oblast. Belongs to the Cherepovets Museum Association.

"Seated Christ" "Seated Christ"Manege Central Exhibition Hall

Acquired from the wooden Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Bogoyavlenskoe village (also known as Kobelek-Komelek), Morshansk county. Belongs to the Morshansk Museum of History and Art.

Photographer: Nikita Shubny, sobaka.ru

"Christ in the Dungeon" (late XVIII - early XIX cc.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

The sculptures of Christ in the Dungeon is artistically unique; each of them has its own face, pose, personality, motives, and features.

This sculpture was acquired in 1929 from the mens' Transfiguration Monastery in Kargopol. Belongs to the Kargopolsky Historical-Architectural and Art Museum.

‏‏‎ ‏‏‎Manege Central Exhibition Hall

The sculpture was previously in Kokshenga (today the Tarnogskiy district) before being brought to Vologda by Bishop Aleksei in 1900, where it was acquired in 1923 by Nikolai Chernitsyn, the Totma Museum Association's first director. Belongs to the Totma Museum Association.

"Seated Savior" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Acquired in 1923 from the Church of Christ Almighty (?) in the Kolchug village, Verhnye-Kamskiy okrug (now the Cherdynskiy district.) Belongs to the Perm State Art Gallery.

"Midnight Savior (Christ in the Dungeon)" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Around 400 examples of this type of sculpture were collected. The main champion of these sculptures, with regards to their acquisition by museums, was art historian, Perm patriot, and local historian Nikolai Nikolaevich Serebrennikov.

Unknown origin, belongs to The State Russian Museum.

"Savior in the Dungeon (Midnight Savior)" (XIX c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

It is important to mention that Serebrennikov’s 1922-1924 expeditions throughout the towns in the Perm region were coercive and often against residents’ will. History tells of villages’ heartbreaking goodbyes to the sculptures.

This sculpture of Christ was acquired from P. B. Erofeev by The State Tretyakov Gallery.

‏‏‎ ‏‏‎Manege Central Exhibition Hall

Unknown origin, belongs to the Kargopolsky Historical-Architectural and Art Museum.

"Christ in the Dungeon" (XIX c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Acquired in 1958 from the Rudnaya Sloboda village in Myshkin county. Belongs to the Uglich State Historical-Architectural and Art Museum.

"Christ Seated" (XIX c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

When Serebrennikov legitimized Perm artistic artifacts in the 1930s-1960s by introducing them into secular-minded Soviet culture, one of the key justifications for this art was its interpretation as folk art.

This depiction of Christ was acquired from the Fyodorovskaya Church in the merchants' cemetery in Morshansk. Belongs to the Morshansk Museum of History and Art.

"Christ in the Dungeon" (XIX c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Acquired from a church in the Kotorovo Village, Kasimovskiy district, Ryazan oblast on a 1981 expedition by the Ryazan Regional Art Museum (V. B. Lozinksiy). Belongs to the Ryazan State Regional Art Museum of Ivan Petrovich Pozhalostin.

‏‏‎ "Christ in the Dungeon" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Unknown origin, belongs to the Pereslavl-Zalessky State Historical-Architectural and Art Memorial Estate.

Crucifixion CrucifixionManege Central Exhibition Hall

The only crucifixion in the exhibition is a representation of Christ’s execution, the terrible outcome that awaited him after his time in the dungeon.

This wooden sculpture was first located at the Church of All Saints in the Vsekhsvyatskoye village, Veliky Ustyug. It was taken from the destroyed church at the time of the expedition and now belongs to a private collector.

"Angel" (without ripidion) (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

In the exhibition, there are two angels from Perm, displayed on either side of the crucifixion. This angel has lost its ripidion: a fan with depiction of Seraphim, a part of a liturgical service.

"Angel with ripidion" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

The ripidion of the second angel is intact, and here one can see the details.

Each of the sculptures were acquired by the Perm State Art Gallery in 1923 from the cemetery chapel near the Motovilikha plant in Perm.

"Gospel Teachings" (XIX c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

This is one of two Bibles displayed in the exhibition. Now belongs to The State Museum of the History of Religion.

"New Testament: Tetraevangelion" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

On the box of the second Bible, there is an owner's inscription: "Ekater. Aleks. Neidgrad". On page 17, there is another owner's inscription: "This book, entitled "New Testament", belongs to freeman Nikita Tsekhmistrovich Kozinskiy." Belongs to The State Museum of the History of Religion.

Second Floor (2019/2019)Manege Central Exhibition Hall

Second Floor

Upstairs is a large labyrinth of lattice with a symbolic courtyard at its center, where visitors find Savior’s figure in a "dungeon". Exhibition designer Anton Gorlanov proposed the motif of a lattice, behind which prisoners languish both in a real confinement and in a symbolic “dungeon”. The sculptures of Christ are literally “behind bars”. It is exactly here that the sounds of chains and heavy steps of a warden begin in the exhibition soundtrack. 

"Heads of Two Angels" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Two heads of angels adorn the entry to the labyrinth.
This piece was acquired by the State Museum of the History of Religion in the late 1940s from the Central Anti-Religion Museum.

"Savior in the Dungeon (Midnight Savior)" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

This subject of "Christ in the Dungeon" appeared in the 17th century, in the pre-petrovsky, “ancient Russian timeframe”. These sculptures were created only for churches and did not diverge from Orthodoxy. However, they do differ from ancient Russian art in that the image of Christ is too realistic, too material.

This sculpture was acquired from P. Erofeev by The State Tretyakov Gallery.

"Christ in Bonds" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Acquired in the 1950s from the Central Anti-Religion Museum. Belongs to The State Museum of the History of Religion.

"Jesus Christ" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Acquired from the town of Orekhovo in the Tikhvinskiy district, Leningrad oblast. Belongs to The State Museum of the History of Religion.

"Christ in the Dungeon" (XVIII - XIX cc.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

On holidays, the sculptures were decorated and dressed in expensive clothing. They were not simply church decorations; they played an important role as some of the church’s most sacred objects.

The origin of this sculpture is one of the most unusual in this exhibition: it was given to the Totma Museum Association by "Brigadier" newspaper's editorial team in the Nyukzenitsa village in 1940.

‏‏‎ "Christ in the Dungeon" (XIX (?) c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Unknown origin, belongs to the Morshansk Museum of History and Art.

‏‏‎ "Christ in the Dungeon" (XIX c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Unknown origin, belongs to the Pereslavl-Zalessky State Historical-Architectural and Art Memorial Estate.

‏‏‎ "Seated Savior" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

This sculpture of Christ with a stylized halo was acquired in 1923 from the Bolshaya Kocha village chapel in the Komi-Permyak okrug. Now belongs to the Perm State Art Gallery.

"Seated Savior" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Acquired in 1923 from the Church of the Nativity in the town of Chyormoz in the Perm okrug (today the Ilyinskiy district). Belongs to the Perm State Art Gallery.

"Seated Savior" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Acquired in 1923 the Church of the Assumption of Mary in Cherdyn, Verhnye-Kamskiy okrug (today the Cherdynskiy district). Belongs to the Perm State Art Gallery.

"Seated Christ" "Seated Christ"Manege Central Exhibition Hall

Acquired from the Vanovo village church in Morshansk county. Belongs to the Morshansk Museum of History and Art.

"Christ in the Dungeon" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

This sculptural tradition develops the theme of a thinking Christ, a man lost in thought before his death. Before us is a god who hurts in a human way.

Pulled from the Totma Museum Association's permanent collection in 2013.

"Christ in the Dungeon" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Comes from the chapel of the Transfiguration Church in the village of Nagorye, Pereslavskiy county; acquired by the Pereslavl-Zalessky State Historical-Architectural and Art Memorial Estate in 1928.

Photographer: Nikita Shubny, sobaka.ru

"Christ in the Dungeon" (XIX c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

This sculpture was found in an old house in the village of Marygino, Vologda oblast. Since 1979, belongs to the Cherepovets Museum Association.

‏‏‎ "Christ in the Dungeon" (XIX c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Acquried in 1936 from Church of Ilya the Prophet in the Ilinskoe village, Cherepovetskiy district, Vologda oblast. Belongs to the Cherepovets Museum Association.

‏‏‎ "Christ in the Dungeon" (XVIII c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

This depiction of Christ with unusual features comes from the Nikolskaya Church in the Luchinskoe village, Pereslavskiy county; acquired by the Pereslavl-Zalessky State Historical-Architectural and Art Memorial Estate in 1926.

"Christ in the Dungeon" (XIX c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

In Christ's hand here is a cane made of wood like the rest of the sculpture. According to religious texts, this staff was placed by warriors in the right hand of Christ instead of a scepter, a sign of royal power, in an attempt to humiliate him.

This sculpture comes from the Nikolskaya Church in the Pushkary village, Ryazan oblast. Acquired in a joint expedition between the Grabar Art Conservation Center and Ryazan State Regional Art Museum in 1969. Now belongs to the Ryazan State Regional Art Museum of Ivan Petrovich Pozhalostin.

"Christ in the Dungeon" (XIX c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Given to the Kirillo-Belozersky Historical-Architectural and Art Memorial Estate in 1975 by Pokrovskaya religious community.

‏‏‎ "Midnight Savior" (XIX c.) by Unknown authorManege Central Exhibition Hall

Acquired in 1970 from the Transfiguration Cathedral in Kimry, Kalinin (Tver) oblast. Belongs to the Tver Regional Art Gallery.

‏‏‎ ‏‏‎Manege Central Exhibition Hall

This sculpture is located at the very center of the iron labyrinth. This is the only sculpture of Christ in the exhibition that still has its own "dungeon". According to the museum archive, it was created after the sculpture itself––in the 19th century.

This piece was acquired from the wooden Kazan Church in the village of Kutli, Morshansk county, Tambov oblast. Now belongs to the Morshansk Museum of History and Art.

Photographer: Nikita Shubny, sobaka.ru

Credits: Story

Curator: Semyon Mikhailovsky
Exhibition design: Anton Gorlanov
Graphics and sound design: Facultative Works
Museum director: Pavel Prigara
Exhibition Coordinator: Vera Reichet
Photographer: Mike Vilchuk
Text: Alexander Korolyov
Translator: Emily Welch

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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