Restoration of the Silver Icon Case for the Miraculous Troitsko-Illinska Mother of God Icon Commissioned by Hetman Ivan Mazepa
One of the most significant restoration projects of the Bogdan Gubsky Foundation was the restoration of a silver icon case from the Troitsko-Illinska Mother of God Icon. It is now stored in the Chernihiv Regional Historical Museum, V.V. Tarnovsky. This unique monument – perhaps the world’s largest silver icon case – is one of the most precious pieces of the Museum Fund of Ukraine. The restoration of the icon case took place in preparation for the New York showing of the international exhibition Ukraine – Sweden: at the Crossroads of History (17th-18th centuries), which opened on April 24, 2010 in the United States. It was there, in the Western Hemisphere, tens of thousands of kilometers from home–and after an 80-year hiatus—that the Ukrainian Museum in New York premiered this silver icon case in all of its historical grandeur as one of the best examples of Ukrainian goldsmithing in late 17th century Art.
The restoration of this monument, which was stored in the museum for decades and consisted of 18 separate sections, was carried out by specialists of the National Research and Restoration Center of Ukraine.
The silver icon case was commissioned by Hetman Ivan Mazepa in 1695 for the Troitsko-Illinska Mother of God Icon (Trinity-Saint Elijah). The icon got its name in honor of the ancient Troitsko-Illinska Monastery, where it was painted in 1658 by the iconographer Hryhoriy Dubensky, and the Trinity Church, which has been preserved since the end of the 17th century. It is known that the Ukrainian Hetman Ivan Mazepa made a donation of 10,000 gold monetary units for the construction of the Trinity Cathedral (which is in the Ukrainian Baroque style). The icon of the Mother of God was miraculous and brought healing to many people, including the Chernihiv Colonel Vasyl Dunin-Borkovsky in 1687, who decorated the crowns on the icon with precious stones as a token of gratitude.
Thus the restoration of the silver icon case became another step towards rehabilitating Ukraine’s history and the spiritual foundation of our state. For centuries Mazepa’s Coat of Arms and initials were hidden from view as the Russian government had covered them with an Imperial (Russian) double-headed eagle. Blatant misinformation, in order to undermine Mazepa’s contributions and support of a free Ukraine were manifested through false attributions of the silver icon case. This was also demonstrated at the exhibition with other artifacts which also had been covered by Imperial Russian insignias and adornments, crudely rendered to disguise Mazepa’s Coat of Arms and any evidence of his patronage or ownership.
For centuries, the truth about the origins of these artifacts was concealed resulting in false historical attributions and narratives. Therefore, the exhibition of these artifacts in their restored, original form–and the return of this unique church relic, honors Mazepa’s patronage and his contribution to the spiritual revival of an independent Ukraine.