Russian Art from the Hulmer Collection

A display of Russian religious artworks, ranging from the sixteenth through the early twentieth centuries, from the Allegheny College Collection, part of the bequest of Eric C. Hulmer. Although not affiliated with Allegheny College during his lifetime, Hulmer's generous donation was made to the College so that his collection might be shared with an appreciative audience.

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  • Icons of the Madonna and Child
  • Icons of Christ
  • Icons of Saints
  • An Easter Egg attributed to the Fabergé Workshops
  • Iconostasis. A drawing of the partition separating church from sanctuary space.
  • Festival Icon depicting Orthodox cycle of feasts based on the Life of Christ and the Virgin.
  • Typological Artworks juxtaposing scenes from the Old and New Testaments
  • Russian History A very brief history of Russia from its ninth century founding to the onset of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917
  • A biography of Eric Hulmer
  • Glossary of Artistic Terms and Techniques
  • Gallery of all the works on the site.
  • Links to related sites.
  • Credits and Bibliographical Resources


Little is known of the manner in which Eric C. Hulmer acquired these works. Some are said to have come from the collection of Vincent Nesbert, a Russian national, and several of these may have been purchased through Armand Hammer, although only one (No. 530 Saint Nicholas) can be so documented. Most of these items are nineteenth- and twentieth-century in date, from undetermined provenance in Russia. Yet it is easy to conjecture the circumstances in which collections like this were assembled in the mid-twentieth century.

The ideology of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia was fundamentally committed to a militant atheism, and its suppression of Russian Orthodoxy also included a program to eliminate Church art. As early as 1918, all Church property was nationalized. Repressive legislation enacted in the years 1929-1934 and purges of 1937-1939 have guaranteed that the largest proportion of Orthodox artwork in Russian Churches was destroyed. By the 1950's, although worship was permitted, a generation of young Russians had been raised without formal religious training and found little use for liturgical props. These difficult times for icons created opportunities for the collector.

The size and nature of these pieces indicates that most were items acquired by individuals for private domestic usage. Every Orthodox home had a special place for icons, candles and other liturgical objects, often the "front corner" just at the entrance to the house. It was not uncommon for Orthodox worshippers to receive icons of their name saints at baptism, or as special Easter gifts (as with No. 454, the Icon Easter Egg). Icons were also given as wedding gifts (perhaps our Festival Icon No. 535), or on special anniversaries (see Nos. 452 and 453). Even the most modest Russian icon can evoke the divine presence. Passed through the generations of a family, these precious works were the focal points of daily prayer.

A few items in the collection were clearly destined for liturgical use, as, for example, No. 457, the crucifix. The large drawing of an iconostasis (No. 503) reflects an ecclesiastical commission probably unrealized.

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These icons and their respective images and information belong to Allegheny College, located in Meadville, PA. Neither the images nor the information concerning them shall be used for any reasons other than private, non-commercial viewing purposes. Please contact us if you wish to use the images for any other reason.

Study of the Hulmer Collection was undertaken in art history seminars directed by Dr. Amelia Carr in 1993 and 1997, and was partially funded by a grant from the Culpeper Foundation. This site was redesigned in 2001 by Kristen Magee. For more information, see Credits and Acknowledgements, or send email to

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