The “Time of Troubles” (1598–1613)

Tsar Feodor, son of Ivan the Terrible, died childless in 1598, marking the end of the Rurik dynasty and heralding the "Time of Troubles." Feodor was succeeded by his brother-in-law Boris Godunov (1598–1605), who attempted to quell doubts about his legitimacy—aggravated by socio-economic conditions and political intrigue—with a system of extravagant patronage. A rumor also spread that Boris had Feodor's young brother, prince Dmitry, murdered in 1591. In October 1604, a mysterious character turned up in Poland, claiming to be Dmitry; he rallied malcontents to his cause, and entered Moscow in June 1605. Suspicions grew concerning his religion… amplified when on May 8, 1606, he married Marina Mniszech (the daughter of his principal supporter), who had secretly remained Catholic. He was murdered as a result of a plot hatched by the Shuisky clan. Vasily Shuisky had himself proclaimed tsar, but was unable to impose his authority over the whole country, and the Poles occupied Moscow until October 1612. A patriotic revival resulted in the country’s liberation from the invaders, and Michael I Romanov was elected tsar in February 1613.





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Oklad (cover) of the Trinity icon by Andrei Rublev

This oklad (precious metal icon cover) was made for Andrei Rublev's famous Trinity icon. It covered the painting completely except for the angels' faces, hands, and feet, and was reworked several times: the earliest elements (the frame, background, figurative plaques, and precious stone cabochons) were a gift of Tsar Boris Godunov in 1599–1600; the angel in the center wears a pendant with a gold panagia (a gift of Tsarevich Feodor) embellished with pearls and precious stones framing a re-used Byzantine saphirine cameo of Christ Pantocrator, attributable to the 10th or 11th century; the three crescent-shaped necklaces attached to the haloes were added by Tsar Michael I Romanov in 1626; and the revetment (riza) of gilt silver strips worked in repoussé was produced in 1754 by Moscow silversmith Ivan Grigoriev, at the monastery's expense.
Moscow, Kremlin workshops, 1599–1600 and 1626; Moscow, 1754 for the revetment
Gold; gilt silver; filigree; niello; enamel; pearls and precious stones: 31 diamonds, 74 emeralds, 7 rubies, 44 sapphires, 2 rubellites, 86 spinels, together with garnets, sapphirines, quartz, and chrysoprases.
H. 1.40 m; W. 1.15 m
Provenance: presented by Boris Godunov in 1599–1600 to the Trinity Church of the Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery for Andrei Rublev's Trinity icon.
Sergiev-Posad, State History and Art Museum, inv. 394-ихо
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Medal of False Dmitry

On October 13, 1604, an enigmatic character arrived from Poland, crossing the Russian border with a small army and claiming to be Dmitry, half-brother of Ivan the Terrible's last son Feodor who had died in mysterious circumstances in 1591. In the "Time of Troubles" following Tsar Feodor's death, this adventurer was a providential figure. He ascended to the throne and had himself called "Caesar" and "imperator," but the question of his religion aroused suspicion, and a plot to murder him was carried out on May 17, 1606.
The front of the medallion shows a half-figure portrait of Dmitry holding a scepter and orb, and wearing the closed imperial crown, a breastplate, and two necklaces of unidentifiable orders. The back shows the double-headed eagle of the Russian coat of arms, with St. George slaying the dragon on its breast and a closed imperial crown above it.
Moscow (?), 1606
Diam. 3.9 cm; weight 32.96 g
Provenance: former collection of the numismatist Carl F. Chroll (1795–1871).
St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum, Numismatics Department, inv. ОН-Р-1 / 3126-n°15040
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Icon: Vasily the Blessed

The "Fool for Christ" (yurodivy) devotional tradition to which Vasily the Blessed belonged (1469–1552) was based on a form of asceticism and personal spirituality corresponding to the message of Paul's first epistle: "If any man among you seem to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise." The Fools for Christ were feared and respected even by the tsars. On his death, Vasily the Blessed was buried in a chapel in the Trinity Church; in 1588, his body was transferred to the Church of the Protection of the Virgin built to commemorate the Kazan victory, better known as the Cathedral of St. Vasily.
The icon shows a slender, naked figure in three-quarter view with disheveled hair and raised arms, his wild gaze directed to the sky where the Trinity appears. He is distinguished from the other Fools for Christ by his total nudity. The elegant, elongated figure and rich, muted tones are typical of the Muscovite art of the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
Moscow, late 16th or early 17th century
Tempera on wood
H. 31.5 cm; W. 27 cm
Provenance: former collection of Ilya Ostroukhov (1858–1929) in Moscow.
Moscow, Tretyakov Gallery, inv. 12078