Veritas filia Dei. 1. The Ithika

Veritas filia Dei
1. The Ithika
2. The naked Truth
3. Time and Truth
4. Daughter of God
We have been invited for a contribution to a Festschrift for Pedro F. Campa, a living classic of emblem studies and especially of Russian emblematics. We have therefore decided to elaborate the reverse of a classical topics of modern iconology – Veritas filia temporis, Truth, daughter of Time –, starting from a Russian emblem. As we proceed with the first version of the study, we publish it chapter wise here at río Wang, looking forward to the opinion and additions of our benevolent Readers.

Some years ago in Moscow, while browsing among the bookstalls on the street, a strange image attracted our attention. The illustration of the slim catalog of the chamber exposition of 18th-century prints of the Lenin Library – later Russian State Library –, taken from the book entitled Иѳіка ієрополітіка (1712), represented a woman in light Baroque clothes, with the sun in one hand and with a book displaying the inscription СЛОВО БОЖIЕ – Word of God in the other. The caption of the picture was Истина – Truth.

As we translated not much earlier into Hungarian the first illustrated edition of 1603 of Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia (1593), the most influential dictionary of Renaissance and Baroque allegorical imagery, this illustration immediately recalled how Ripa had proposed to represent the allegory of Truth:

Ripa’s Iconologia was for more than two centuries one of the most important handbooks and a frequent source of allegorical themes for Western European painters and sculptors. Translated into eight languages, it was published in forty-three different editions until the late 19th century when it definitely went out of fashion. It is therefore not unusual in itself to find one of its figures in a 18th-century book. What is unusual, however, is to find it in a Russian book, what is more, in a book in Old Church Slavic.

In fact, emblematic and allegoric literature and graphics, which in the Catholic and Protestant Europe had flourished since the beginning of the Renaissance, never took root in Orthodox territory. Pedro Campa in his recent summary on Russian emblematics * only mentions two or three similar 17th-century attempts, all under a heavy Western – Polish or Jesuit – influence. The first veritable Russian emblem book entitled Symbola et emblemata – Сѵмволы и ємблємата * was ordered in 1705 by none less than Peter the Great himself at the Amsterdam merchant Jan Tesing. This collection includes 840 emblems selected from the most popular Western European emblem books, translating their usual Latin mottoes into French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, English, German, as well as – for the first time – Russian. The book obviously stood in the service of the Westernizing reforms of the czar, who intended to promulgate this important Western European genre among the Russian public. However, it found not many followers.

Frontispieces and first page of Сѵмволы и ємблємата.

The Иѳіка ієрополітіка, the source of the above image of Truth, although published seven years after the emblem book of Peter the Great, is completely independent of that. It does not borrow from its emblems, and is not primarily an emblem book, but a philosophical and moral work – according to the Russian Biographic Dictionary, the first Russian philosophical work * – illustrated with emblematic engravings. Each short chapter presents a concept in two or three pages in a meditative form, on the basis of the Bible and of church authors. As the Catalog of Ukrainian old prints describes it: *

873. Ифіка ієрополітіка, или філософія нравоучителная [сѵмволами и приуподобления изяснения]… Київ, друкарня лаври, 1712.
12°. [10], 174, 2 арк. Рядків — 25.
Шрифт: 10 рядків — 38 мм. Гравюри: герб Скоропадських (зв. титулу, медерит), 67 ілюстрацій в тексті з 67 дощок (мідерити — офорти), заставка. Виливні прикраси.
Гравер: Никодим Зубрицький.
Філософсько-моралістичний твір, де у віршованій формі викладено основні норми суспільної етики, моралі, філософії та педагогічні настанови. Гравюри ілюструють такі поняття, як «смирение», «кротость», «терпение», «благодать», «надежда», «ощадность», «бодрость», «любовь родителей ко чадом», «равенство», «книг чтение», «академия или училище» тощо.
Ундольский, 1493; Петров, Бирюк, Золотарь, 425; Быкова, Гуревич, 1958, 91; Чернышева, 221; Максименко, 328. ДБЛ, ДІМ, ЦДАДА, ДПІБ, ДПБ, БАН, ЦНБ, ЛБАН, НБЛДУ БАН БРСР.

Ithika * ieropolitika ili filosofiya nravouchitelnaya symvolami i priupodobleniya izyasneniya… (Religious and political ethics, that is, a philosophy teaching the good through symbols and explained similitudes)… Kiev, monastery press, 1712
Engravings: Skoropadsky coat-of-arms (inner frontispiece), 67 full page text illustration, engraver: Nikodim Zubritsky.
A philosophical and moral work presenting the basic norms of social ethics, moral, philosophy and education in a poetic form. The engravings illustrate such concepts as humility, meekness, patience, mercy, hope, parsimony, courage, the parents’ love towards their children, equality, reading books, academy or school, and so on.

The illustrations introducing each concept with a four-verse poem usually go back to some Western European visual source: an emblem, an allegory or a Biblical illustration. It is no wonder, as Kiev had passed just some decades earlier from the Polish-Lithuanian Union to the Russian Empire. “Ruthenia”, as the province was still called at that time, for the time being enjoyed autonomy within the empire, and maintained its cultural connections with Poland and through it with Western Europe. In the same monastery press several works in Polish and Latin were also being printed, and the monastery library preserved a large number of Western publications of classical authors, Catholic theological treatises, scholarly works as well as emblem books. *

This monastery was the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, one of the most important centers of Orthodoxy in Eastern Europe. This was the seat of one of the three contemporary Ukrainian presses, the other two being that of the Trinity Monastery in Chernigov and of the Stavropigia Brotherhood in Lwów. The monastery maintained the most important university of the region, the Kiev-Mohyla Academy where Orthodox intelligentsia was being trained from Lithuania through Poland and the Romanian principalities to Bulgaria and Serbia.

The university was named after its founder, the Metropolite of Kiev and Archimandrite of the Pechersk Lavra Petro Mohyla (1596-1646). He was the offspring of an old Moldavian boyars’ family, son of the Prince of Moldavia Ieremia Movilă (1595-1606, rebuilder of the famous Monastery of Suceviţa) and of the Hungarian Erzsébet Csomortány of Losonc. His father was a supporter of the alliance with Poland, and his mother played an important role in the rise of Catholicism in Moldavia. Besides the large cultural horizon brought from home, Mohyla also learned at Western universities, and as the Metropolite of Kiev he supported the spread of Western culture, education and academic system, Scholastic theology and Latin language as well as the maintenance of the connection with Poland and the West in the Orthodox church. He was an important Orthodox theologian as well who cleared a number of doctrinal conflicts between the Orthodox churches of Constantinople, Russia and Moldavia-Wallachia. Today he is revered as a saint in the Orthodox churches of the Ukraine, Romania and Poland.

The composition of Ithika and a number of other similar works were most probably due to the Western ideas introduced by Mohyla. The Ithika is a concept-clearing work as well as a “picture catechism” similar to the ones that had been fostered in the West since the mid-16th century by the philosophical and ecclesiastical renewal – as we have pointed out,  * Ripa’s Iconologia also belonged to them –, and it was the first representative of this genre in the Orthodox world. Sergei Zagrebny in the summary of the history of the Mohyla Academy * explicitly mentions Ithika among the most important works of the literary school founded by Petro Mohyla and following his spiritual legacy.

The 1712 edition of Ithika begins with the coat of arms of the Cossack Hetman Ivan Skoropadsky (1708-1722), the most powerful Ukrainian landowner of his age. Skoropadsky, himself a former alumnus and then a supporter of the Mohyla Academy * became the supreme leader of the Cossacks of the Ukraine after the fall of the Cossack leader Mazepa who had turned against Peter the Great. He accepted the Russian control, but he also defended the autonomy of the Ukraine, similarly to the efforts of Petro Mohyla and his Academy. It is interesting to mention that his descendant, Pavlo Skoropadsky would be the leader of the short-lived Ukrainian State (1918-1920).

While Skoropadsky who had done great services to the Empire was still living, the Czar did not touch the Ukrainian autonomy, but after his death they started to wind it up at a quick pace. As a first step, already in 1720 censorship was introduced: presses were only allowed to reprint old and traditional ecclesiastical books, while the edition of the works of Mohyla’s followers was explicitly forbidden. * This is how the half a century long, very promising attempt of the Orthodox church at opening to the West and at an inner intellectual mission was broken, and how the visual and literary genre created by Ithika was left without followers.

Nevertheless, Ithika was once more published in 1718 in Saint-Petersburg, invariably in Old Church Slavic, but already in a Russian orthography. There it was probably the new Westernizing trend that created a public for it. After several decades it was published again in 1760 – with the engravings of Ivan Filipopovich closely following the original illustrations – in Lwów that remained under Polish control and where the Orthodox church preserved its openness to Western culture. These were followed by two additional late editions in the two Russian capitals, in 1764 in Saint-Petersburg and in 1796 in Moscow. Both were published without illustrations, and thus the emblematic layer was missing altogether in them.

A special branch of the reception history of Ithika is the Viennese edition of 1774 where the illustrations were reengraved in a Rococo style. The history of this edition was outlined by Ljiljana Stošić in her work about the Western models of Serbian Baroque sculpture. * For the Serbian orthodoxy orientating itself towards the West after the end of the Turkish wars from the early 18th century, the pictures of Ithika facilitated the reception of the Western models and their applications to Orthodox themes. Stošić mentions a large number of such works of art from Belgrad to Szentendre. The artists mostly used the 1712 Kiev edition, brought home by the Serbian students learning at the Mohyla Academy. As these copies were gradually consumed, the publication of a new Serbian edition seemed necessary. “Serbian” here obviously means the customers, for the language of the book remained the same Old Church Slavic used for writing and reading by all the Orthodox intellectuals from Moscow through Bucharest to Tirana. And as for the Serbian bourgeoisie keeping in hand the fluvial trade along all the Danube the most important centers of Serbian culture were at that time Vienna and Buda – it is no coincidence that Vuk Karadžić launched the renewal of Serbian language in the latter city –, thus it was an obvious option to publish the book in the Serbian press of Vienna.

The allegory of Truth in the editions of Kiev 1712, Saint-Petersburg 1718 and Vienna 1774.
The editions of Saint-Petersburg 1764 and Moscow 1796 were not illustrated,
while this picture is missing from our copy of Lwów 1760.

Although Ithika, as we have seen, was an important and original work in its own age, modern research has almost completely forgotten it. In the West – apart from the summary by Pedro Campa – it is virtually unknown. Russian literature only refers to it en passant when treating 18th-century book printing. Only Ukrainian literature has recently started to discover it as an important early representative of a characteristically Ukrainian literature. A number of recent articles mention its role in transmitting the Western allegorical language to Galitzia * and in shaping the iconography of Ukrainian religious art, * but they do not go into the detail, and usually all refer to the same handbook on The art of the Ukraine from the 16th to the 18th century. * A detailed analysis of its text and illustrations and their comparison to their Western models in the form of a thorough study remains to be written.

After this survey of the Ithika’s context let us turn back to our starting point, the similarity of the images of Truth in the Ithika of Kijev in 1712 and in the Iconologia of Rome in 1603. Why is this allegory a representation of Truth and why with these attributes? And do we really see the same Truth in both pictures? This will be our topic in the next chapter.