One of the highlights of my stay in Novi Sad was seeing the magnificent collection of Serbian icons in Matica Srpska Gallery. So, that’s how I’ll start writing about this very precious museum that I visited for the very first time. Not for a moment I imagined that, with the wealth of its collection, this museum would rival the National Museum in Belgrade.
But, let’s start with a word about Matica Srpska and the Gallery.
MATICA SRPSKA GALLERY
Established in 1826 in Pest, Matica Srpska is the oldest Serbian cultural institution. It’s also the oldest “matica” in the world – a Slavonic concept for promotion of national culture that gained prominence during the 19th century romantic nationalism.
The gallery was also established in Pest, in 1847, but it moved to Novi Sad in 1864.
In 1947, one part of the collection of the then Matica Srpska Museum went to the newly established Museum of Vojvodina. However, the artistic collection remained with the Matica Srpska Gallery.
The museum occupies a building of the former Stock Exchange, that you can see in the photo below.
You can read more about this museum on its official web site, there are many more interesting details.
SERBIAN ICONS IN MATICA SRPSKA GALLERY
As you will see in this post, most of the icons in the museum come from Serbian Orthodox churches in Vojvodina, which is the Serbian northern province. Despite the fact that it has always been predominantly populated by Serbs, Vojvodina officially became part of Serbia only after the First World War.
The Ottomans conquered it at the same time when they conquered the rest of Serbia, throughout the 15th and the 16th century. But from the beginning of the 18th century, it came under the Austro-Hungarian rule, while Belgrade and the rest of southern Serbia remained under the Ottomans for approximately further 150 years.
You can observe these historical events when you visit cities and towns in Vojvodina. They all have the Austro-Hungarian appearance, the same as you can see everywhere where the Habsburgs ruled. But, cities and towns in the rest of Serbia are different. The same as Belgrade, they started to develop only after the liberation from the Ottomans in the mid 19th century.
That’s why you can find magnificent Serbian Orthodox churches even in the smallest villages in Vojvodina. That’s also where the Serbian art flourished in the 18th and the 19th century and from where the Serbian icons in Matica Srpska Gallery are.
THE OLDEST ICONS IN THE GALLERY
The oldest icons in the Gallery are from the 16th and the 17th century. They demonstrate the perseverance of the Byzantine style of icon painting, which lasted until the end of the 17th century. The icons in the museum are of different influences – Russian, Italo-Cretan and also local, where the Orthodox icon painting tradition lasted for a long time.
The early 16th century icon “The Annunciation”, by an unknown Greek painter, is an example of the best tradition in the Byzantine icon-painting. It’s one of the oldest and most beautiful icons from Fruška Gora monasteries.
The two icons that you can see below came from the Krušedol monastery treasury. These icons, by Russian painters, are also typical of the best Russian tradition in icon painting that started in the late Middle Ages.
ICONS FROM SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCHES IN VOJVODINA
Without getting into too much further commentary, the rest of the icons that you can see in this post come from various Serbian Orthodox churches in Vojvodina. When I did a research for this post, I had to check the map to see where those places are. It turned out that some of them are small villages. It makes it even more interesting to learn that such small places have significant Serbian Orthodox temples where prominent Serbian painters worked on their embellishment.
A small part of that vast artistic legacy that exists in numerous churches across the Vojvodina province is in this gallery. It’s a rather big collection of icons, much bigger than what there is in the National Museum in Belgrade and it’s stunning.
ST. NICHOLAS CHURCH – STARI SLANKAMEN
The two icons below came from the St. Nicholas church in Stari Slankamen.
ST. NICHOLAS CHURCH – SIVAC
The icon below is from the St. Nicholas church in Sivac.
ST. GEORGE CHURCH – ČALMA
The following two icons came from the St. George church in Čalma.
THE CHURCH OF NATIVITY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST – BAČKA PALANKA
Then, we have two icons that came from the Church of Nativity of St. John the Baptist in Bačka Palanka.
THE CHURCH OF ST. MATTHEW THE EVANGELIST – SRPSKI MILETIĆ
The two icons that you can see below are from the Church of St. Matthew the Evangelist in Srpski Miletić.
ST. DEMETRIUS CHURCH – BAJŠA
The icon below is from the St. Demetrius Church in Bajša.
THE CHURCH OF ST. STEFAN DEČANSKI – VILOVO
The icon below is from the Church of St. Stefan Dečanski in Vilovo.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any information about the origin of the icon in the photo below.
THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IN THE MOHOVO PARISH
The icon in the photo below came from the Serbian Orthodox Church in the parish of Mohovo, which is in the present day Croatia, just across the border from Serbia.
ST. NICHOLAS CHURCH – SIVAC
The next two icons are from the St. Nicholas Church in Sivac.
THE CHURCH OF THREE HOLY HIERARCHS – NOVI SAD
The icon below comes from the Church of Three Holy Hierarchs (Almaška church) in Novi Sad. I mentioned this church in my previous post.
ST. COSMAS AND DAMIAN CHURCH – NEŠTIN
The icon below is from the St. Cosmas and Damian Church in Neštin.
THE HOLY ARCHANGEL MICHAEL CHURCH – VIZIĆ
The next two icons are from the Holy Archangel Michael church in Vizić.
ST. NICHOLAS CATHEDRAL – SREMSKI KARLOVCI
The next two icons are from the magnificent St. Nicholas Cathedral in Sremski Karlovci.
THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX PARISH OF VRDNIK
Finally, the two icons below are from the Serbian Orthodox parish of Vrdnik.
Having seen the collection of icons in Matica Srpska Gallery in Novi Sad, I’d like to visit these and other churches in Vojvodina, but I’m not sure how feasible that would be. There is a church in every place, even in the smallest of villages, with phenomenal works of art.
Perhaps, for the time being it’s enough what I’ve seen in this gallery. The photos in this post are only a small fraction of the permanent collection in the museum. If you go to Novi Sad, I hope that this post will inspire you to visit this museum too.
Its collection of the Serbian Orthodox icons is spectacular!