Icons with Oklad or Riza - Antique Russian icons


The icon fitting fulfills a practical and an ideal purpose: it protects the icon from external influences (such as candle soot, dust, mechanical injuries), and it solemnly envelops it, just as the reliquary shrines the venerable relic. The pious custom of kissing icons will also have contributed to the creation of protective covers. The fitting is certainly not an original part of the icon. But neither is it a random addition, not an “accessory”, but a dress that, once put on, has grown old with its wearer.


The beginnings of icon fittings probably go back to the 13th century. Icons were provided with an edge fitting made of precious metal, which was equipped with portrait busts, scenes or even just ornaments and sometimes corresponded to the representations on the painted edge itself. The practical reasons mentioned above will have contributed to the further development of these edge fittings, which were ultimately able to almost overgrow or displace the painted picture. But the ideal beginnings are already decided in the core of the orthodox doctrine of images: an image that was once created as a correct (true) material image of a spiritual-immaterial archetype can be repeated over and over again by the divine creative power inherent in it. In this way, not only do the underlying painted representations repeat themselves on the appropriately processed protective covers, but the covers themselves receive a kind of material autonomy.


The following types of icon fittings can be distinguished: The (Russian) Basma, still today a street in the old city center of Moscow is called after the craftsmen who made such fittings, the "Street of the Basmanciki" (Russian: "Basmannaja ulica") from the edge over the whole picture so that the figures remain free. The (Russian) Oklad or Riza covers the entire surface of the picture with the exception of the incarnate areas. In both cases it is a matter of gilded and appropriately processed silver sheets, which were often adorned with precious gemstones and small enamels. Small lamps were attached to the icon and hung in front of them and decorated with devotional objects.