Architecture and Icon: the Origin of the Stepped Gables in the Icon ‘The Vision of the Sexton Tarasiy of Khutyn’


  • Ilya Antipov
  • Alexandra Trushnikova
  • Maksim Kostyria



architectural background, Russian icons of the 16th century, Russian illuminated manuscripts of the 16th century, woodcut book illustrations, European prints, the Vision of the Sexton Tarasiy


The article invites to look afresh at the late 16th century Novgorod icon
‘The Vision of the Sexton Tarasiy of Khutyn`’ and the Faceted Palace,
built in 1433 by German craftsmen. The stepped gables of the building,
located west of St Sophia Cathedral in the icon, were interpreted as
realistic image of the upper parts of the Faceted Palace that have
not survived. However, the iconographic analysis of more than a
hundred of the Russian icons and illuminated manuscripts dating
back to the second half of the 16th – early 17th centuries proved that
the stepped gable was a decorative architectural motive, widespread
since the 1560s–1570s. The authors classified the images of buildings
with stepped gable in the late medieval Russian art, and determined
their possible sources among the Northern European prints of the
15th – 16th centuries. The comprehensive study ascertained that the
building in the icon ‘The Vision of the Sexton Tarasiy’ can’t be used for
reconstruction of the Faceted Palace. Since 1560s–1570s the schematic
representation of the city in Russian art often placed buildings with
the stepped gables (initially acquired from the European prints)
next to the churches. Panorama of Novgorod in the Khutyn` icon
followed this pattern and combined fantastic forms with rather
realistic depiction of the church edifices.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Ilya Antipov

Ilya Antipov is an assistant professor at the Department of Russian
Art, Institute of History, St Petersburg State University. His PhD
thesis (2005) was a monograph based on his thorough research into
15th-century Novgorod architecture, both surviving and known via
sources. Antipov has been head of the architectural-archeological expedition in Novgorod since 1998. Excavations carried out in the
last 20 years have discovered several new examples of Novgorod
medieval architecture and disclosed new data about the Faceted
Palace, St Nicolas’ church at Lipno, St Ilya at Slavno, etc. His research
interests are Old Russian art, architectural archeology, East Christian
art, architectural contact between Russia and Europe.

Alexandra Trushnikova

Alexandra Trushnikova is currently a senior lecturer at St Petersburg
Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design. Since 2007 she has taken
part in the St Petersburg State University architectural-archeological
expedition. Her PhD thesis (2017) examined single-nave domed
11th-15th-century churches in Old Russian and Byzantine architecture.
Since 2017 she has lectured on Byzantine and Old Russian art, and
the theory and history of restoration. Her research interests are crosscultural
interaction between Old Russia, Byzantium and Europe, and
architectural archeology.

Maksim Kostyria

Maksim Kostyria is the head of the scientific department at the
Research Museum of the Russian Academy of Arts and assistant
professor at the Department of Western European Art in the Institute
of History, St Petersburg State University. His PhD thesis (2004)
was devoted to the study of night landscapes in Western European
painting and graphics of the 17th century. Kostyria is the author of
several monographs on the work of little-studied artists such as
Barend Cornelis Koekkoek, Petrus van Schendel and Aert van der
Neer. His research interests are Western European art of the 16-19th
centuries, and the history of art collecting and museology.