Wrestling with Angels: Icons from the Prosopon School

By Jonathan Pageau on June 17, 2019
The Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton MA will premiere Wrestling with Angels, an exhibition of forty-six contemporary icons by sixteen iconographers from the Prosopon School of Iconology and Iconography, July 19-October 27, 2019.  Exploring the recent renaissance of this ancient tradition, the exhibition will feature icons by the founder of the Prosopon School, Vladislav Andrejev, along with works by master iconographers, instructors, and apprentices.

Visitors to the exhibition will encounter the icons as they would within an Orthodox church, beginning with depictions of events and persons from Hebrew scripture that would be found in the narthex (or vestibule); and continuing with icons that would surround the congregation in the nave including images of Christ and the Theotokos. The exhibition concludes with icons that would be found on or behind the iconostasis, including icons of the principal feasts of the liturgical year as well icons of mystical subjects that point to the second coming of Christ.

Wrestling with Angels is a reference to the first icon on view, a work depicting the mysterious wrestling match between the patriarch Jacob and an unidentified stranger as described in Genesis. After struggling all night without prevailing, Jacob insists on a blessing before he will relinquish his hold on the man. Although the stranger will not disclose his name, he renames Jacob as Israel (Hebrew for “he who contends with God”), inspiring Jacob to exclaim “for I have seen God face to face and my soul has been delivered.” Not only the inspiration for the title of the exhibition, it is an apt image for the timeless universal struggle between humankind and the mysteries of the unknown.



Since its founding in 2000, the Prosopon School, among the first American schools of iconography, has introduced thousands of students worldwide to this sacred art of the Christian East. The Prosopon School accomplishes this by breaking the process of creating an icon into distinct technical steps and associating these with the theology and teachings of the Orthodox Church, especially those of the early Church Fathers.

The Prosopon School endeavors to be a living continuation of the tradition of icon-writing. With reverence for the ancient prototypes, its iconographers practice the art form within the canon of Orthodoxy as a living tradition informed by the school’s American experience.

“Prosopon” is a word encountered many times in the Greek Bible. In one of its most common usages, it expresses the aspect of God turned toward the world—his “face.” In the realm of iconology, which is the attentiveness to the image of God, “Prosopon” can be used to indicate the perceivable revelation of God.



Vladislav Andrejev was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1938 (at that time, Leningrad). After studying at the Tavrichesky School of Art and the Moscow Polygraphic Institute, Andrejev became interested in religious art, which was dangerous to practice openly during the Soviet era. His search for a deeper meaning in life and art led him on solitary travels in the Russian wilderness, including the Carpathian and Caucasus mountains, where Orthodox monk-recluses lived in hiding, and to encounters with the monk-iconographer Abbot Alipiy of the Pskov Caves Monastery.

Andrejev and his family emigrated to the United States in 1980, where American cultural, artistic, and religious pluralism allowed him to devote himself to iconography.  In 1985, Andrejev was persuaded, reluctantly at first due to his limited command of English, to teach at the School of the Sacred Arts in New York City. When the school closed, Andrejev became an itinerant iconography teacher, accepting invitations to teach at other cultural institutions and churches across the United States. On July 4th, 2000, the Prosopon School was named and blessed by Archbishop Peter (L’Huillier) of New York and New Jersey, and the support of Theodosius, Metropolitan of all America and Canada (OCA).  Appropriately, the 4th of July is not only the birthday of Andrejev’s adopted home; it is also the feast day of great Russian iconographer and saint, Andrei Rublev.



The collection of icons has been assembled by one of the OAJ contributors, iconographer, Prosopon School instructor, and collector Lynette Hull. While icons by the hand of Prosopon School iconographers adorn churches, chapels, and private homes across the country, this exhibition expresses Lynette’s desire to share the arresting beauty and vibrancy of the Prosopon School with the larger public.



Film: Art of Faith

Sunday, July 14, 1:00-3:30pm
Museum Members $6, Nonmembers $12

Dir. John McCarthy, 155 minutes, English


2019 Prosopon School of Iconography Intensive Course

Monday, August 5 to Saturday, August 10, 2019, 8:30am-4:00pm.
Museum Members $900, Nonmembers $995, Registration deadline: July 12. https://www.museumofrussianicons.org/classes-workshops/


Lecture: Creativity and Tradition in Iconography: A Balancing Act, with Iconographer Maureen McCormick

Sunday, August 18, 1:00-2:30pm

Members $6, Nonmembers $12


Lecture: The Ancient of Days: Depicting God the Father in Orthodox Iconography, with Christopher Helali

Sunday, September 8, 1:00-2:00pm

Members $6, Nonmembers $12


Workshop: Beyond the Classroom: A Prosopon Workshop for Aspiring Iconographers with Iconographer Maureen McCormick

Friday, September 20-Sunday, September 22; Friday and Saturday, 9:00am-5:00pm; Sunday, 9:00am-12:00pm. Members $350, Nonmembers $425.  Registration deadline: August 30


Lecture: Why Wrestle Angels? Who’s Asking? with Exhibition Curator Lynette Hull

Saturday, September 28, 2019, 1:00–2:00pm

Members $6, Nonmembers $12


For further information, visit https://www.museumofrussianicons.org/calendar/



The Museum of Russian Icons inspires the appreciation and study of Russian culture by collecting and exhibiting icons and related objects; igniting the interest of national and international audiences; and offering interactive educational programs. The Museum serves as a leading center for research and scholarship through the Center for Icon Studies and other institutional collaborations. It is the only museum in the US dedicated to Russian icons, and it is the largest collection of icons outside of Russia.

Museum hours:
 Tuesday–Friday, 11AM to 4PM; Saturday and Sunday, 11AM to 5PM.  First Sunday of the month: free admission! Closed Mondays.


Admission: Adults $10, seniors (59+) $7, Students $5, Children (3-7) $5, Children under 3 Free.

For more information, please visit museumofrussianicons.org.   Follow the Museum of Russian Icons on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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