Home | News | EXHIBIT in Clinton, From the Vault Icons of Ethiopia

EXHIBIT in Clinton, From the Vault Icons of Ethiopia


A pop-up exhibit, titled “From the Vault: Icons of Ethiopia,” will be on display at Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts (from May 20 to August 13).

You may have heard of a pop-up restaurant. The Museum of Russian Icons is now showing a pop-up exhibit of Ethiopian and Coptic icons and related materials.

“From the Vault: Icons of Ethiopia,” will be on display in the front room of the first floor of the museum through Aug. 13.

Registrar Laura Garrity-Arquitt said the staff has been talking for a while about featuring some of their smaller exhibits, like this one, displaying some of the icons not always on display.

“Members and loyal visitors might not always know what is changing,” she said. The idea of having a smaller show pop up from time to time is a fun way to keep the displays fresh.

“It allows us to explore the collection in a different way,” Garritty-Arquitt said. The Ethiopian and Coptic works in this display have not been on display for several years.

The style is very different from other icons – especially the Russian ones.

“The most obvious difference is the style,” she said. “These have bolder lines and bright, but limited colors. And the faces are more expressive.”

Ethiopian iconography didn’t appear until the 16th century and the graphically bold figures have large, almond-shaped eyes. These icons could be found in monasteries, churches, and the homes of the wealthy.

Until recently, the Ethiopian churches were under the Coptic heading. Featured are not only a couple of small pieces, but some silver crosses with intricate decoration.

A newly acquired “magic scroll” will also be on view in the exhibit. This traditional Ethiopian art form is based on ancient beliefs that illnesses and other crises were the work of demons. A cleric of the Ethiopian Church would create the scroll, customized to the height of the patron, and inscribed with healing prayers and stories of saints and angels triumphing over Satan. They were written in Ge’ez, the liturgical language of Ethiopia. The scrolls were believed to have protective and healing powers, and were always carried by the owner.