Stelletsky’s Murals at Saint-Serge: Orthodoxy and the Neo-Russian Style in Emigration
Between 1925 and 1927, the Russian émigré artist Dmitry Stelletsky (1875-1947) executed the murals and iconostasis for the parish church of the Saint-Serge Theological Institute in Paris – one of the most important centres of the Orthodox Church outside of Russia. The highly stylised, colourful mural scheme and its daring deviations from the Orthodox canon represented an unusual departure for Stelletsky both as an artist and a devout Orthodox believer. His secular paintings generally corresponded closely with medieval forms—so much so that the Russian avant-garde condemned his work as imitative—yet in Paris his designs for this important religious commission were the most experimental of his career. This essay considers how Stelletsky’s radical use of space, on the whole, appeared to prioritise aesthetic, rather than religious concerns, and will explore the possibility that his position outside of the avant-garde was less straightforward than his contemporaries and scholars have suggested.