The icon has been a notable part of the Russian Orthodox faith since Christianity was first introduced to their ancestors, the Kievan Rus’ in 988 AD. The earliest Russian icons were strictly based on Byzantine artistic conventions but later expanded to become the most prolific of all the eastern Orthodox faiths.
Traditional icons were made with layers of egg tempera paint on cloth-covered or gessoed wooden panels. Gold or tinted-silver leaf is frequently used to embellish certain elements like halos and inscriptions. Many icons also feature a metallic cover called an oklad that protected the surface of the icon. These covers were finely worked with intricate decoration and featured cut-outs to reveal parts of the icon underneath.
Icons play a major role in Orthodox churches where the nave is separated from the sanctuary by an “icon-screen” consisting of a doorway in the center of a wall of icons. They were also common in homes where a special corner called the krasny ugol, or “beautiful corner” was devoted to their display. Authentic antique Russian icons have become much more scarce in recent times due stringent export restrictions. Those that remain are highly valued by collectors for their historical value and exquisite artistry.