Institute of Eastern and South Eastern European History
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Dissertation Project

Dissertationsprojekt: The Image of Christ. 19th Century Imagination of the Sacred in Russia and the West – a Comparative Study

In the Eastern and Western art alike, the image of Christ has had a prominent role ever since the emergence of Christianity. Both the West and Russia saw a decline in religiousness in the 18th century, the image of Christ suffered the same fate and receded from the pedestal of the most important iconographic themes. As early as the end of the 18th century in Europe and from the 19th century in Russia, a new turn emerges: culture, especially fine art, begins to rediscover its original and fictitious roots in faith – Christianity. This renovatio fidei brings about a new understanding of the figure of Christ and its new representations in visual art and literature.

The figure of Christ has undergone dynamic changes in the 19th century, which had a specific form in different culture areas in the ever-changing social atmosphere in Europe of the 19th century. These changes were Europe-wide in that it sparked a debate of authors such as David Strauss or Ernest Renan. These changes of the image of Christ reflected in art are what I would like to focus on. Attention will be paid mostly to the image of Christ in Russian art and literature taking into account the parallel phenomena in these areas that were connected and reflected in Russia itself – mainly Germany and France. The focal point of my work will be paintings that depict Christ as an expression of the period religious sentiment often described also by thinkers or writers as Solovyov, Dostoevsky and others. Attention will be also paid to the transformation of the figure of Christ from 1840' to the Russian revolution of 1917, when image of the Savior was reused by the early Soviet propaganda.