Within the selection of the author of the exhibition, Branka Ivanić, museum advisor of the National Museum of Serbia, 147 icons were included in the exhibition. We are talking about icons of authors from the territories of traditional Greek countries, as well as from a wider area within the Ottoman Empire and neighboring countries where the influences of Greek culture remained recognizable.
Visitors will have the opportunity to see the works of the specific Italo-Cretan iconographic style, current between the 15th and 18th centuries in the area of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Adriatic, created in the meeting of Orthodox and Catholic influences. The icons on display can come from the workshops or from the templates of famous Cretan painters such as Andreas Ritzos, Nikolaos Tzafouris, or Ieremías Palántas. Another group of Greek icons in the Collection of the National Museum of Serbia was created outside the direct influence of Italo-Cretan painting, in the continental areas of the Balkans, then under the rule of the Turks. One can recognize contacts with the works of the long-lasting and significant Kostur school, whose achievements represent a non-negligible share of the total preserved painting heritage of the Balkans during the Turkish era. A special group consists of icons from the Holy Land.
The icon was an indispensable object of everyday life in the Orthodox world. An inalienable part of the icon is the signature, the name of the saint or the composition. The holy person communicates his thoughts and messages directly and in real time to the observer with a text, usually written on an unfolded scroll in his hand. Referring to the same concept, the text and image together make the icon alive in the spirit of the one who observes it, in the moment when he observes it. In Byzantine theology, veneration of icons allowed the pious to have a direct connection with the divine, teaching that the honour shown to an image is transferred to its prototype. The largest influx of Greek icons to the National Museum took place in the decades between 1955 and 1975, when Belgrade was a key point of population migration from the southeast and the western parts of SFRY. Thanks to these multi-year acquisitions, it was possible to form a whole that reflects the artistic events of the past when it comes to the respect and prevalence of Greek icons among Serbs, persistent inheritors of Byzantine culture.
The exhibition presents the professional and scientific work of the curators of the Department for the Middle Ages of the National Museum of Serbia and the work on conservation and restoration, as well as the range in the presentation of cultural heritage.