The icons are a gift from Roger Cabal (1929-1997). This industrialist was fascinated by the world of icons from a very young age. And at a time when this art form was met with widespread indifference, he managed to put together an exceptional collection. While certain works are currently held by the Louvre Museum, most of his collection was bequeathed to the Petit Palais, giving this museum the finest French public collection of such items. From this set of seventy-six icons spanning the period from the 18th to the 19th century, only one selection is on display.
The Greek icons on display here all date from after the fall of the Byzantine Empire, in 1453. They were produced in the territories that were once part of this Empire and kept its religious tradition alive.
As Russia’s conversion to Christianity in 988 came from Byzantium, it inherited the concept of the sacred image and the rigorous formal principles of the Byzantine world. It never slavishly copied its models, however.
The Petit Palais has also conserved a binding plate adorned with a Virgin and Child, evidence of the ivory art that was popular in the Eastern Christian world, in particular in Byzantium, in the Middle Ages.