The library of Leoni Montanari Palace was opened in order to establish a center for iconographic and documentary research, as a support to the Intesa Sanpaolo collection of ancient Russian icons now hosted by the Galleries of Leoni Montanari Palace. The initiative was intended to provide the necessary equipment for the study and iconographic research on the precious tablets to scholars and restorators in charge of the scientific cataloguing and the restoration of the collection.
Because of the extraordinary conceptual depth of Christian Orthodox art, its more than millennial vitality, and its widespread development across the whole Christian Orient, it was deemed appropriate to expand the research project, tracing in time and space the fascinating if troubled development of this particular form of artistic expression.
The gathering of documentary sources has thus been extended to the history of the Russian world and of Eastern Europe, to the religious and spiritual aspects of the genre, and to the philosophical and aesthetic reflections which inspired and accompanied the painting of icons.
The intent is to follow closely the development of the genre, from its firm Byzantine origins to its momentous rediscovery on the part of the early 1900’s avant-guarde; from the impact on Western art including the Italian one, to the regional traditions and local schools.
The catalogue is thus divided into four sections: History, Philosophy, Religion, and Art. It includes a detailed geographical classification, and several texts dating back to the turn of the last century, when the studies on the art of the icons flourished especially in Russia. It was at that time that people rediscovered not only the spiritual and liturgic significance, but also the exquisitely aesthetic value of this art form. The library has a rich collection of documents in the original language, as well as texts written in several European languages.
The library provides access to the Index of Christian Art, Princeton University, the most important archive of medieval art in existence and the most specialized resource for the iconographer.