Unbekannter Artist, Sophia die Göttliche Weisheit, 17. Jahrhundert.; Vasily Perov (1834-1882), F. M. Dostoevskij. Google Art Project.

Dostoevsky, Basel and Icons 

On the occasion of the 200th birthday of Fyodor Michajlovič Dostoevsky  (1821-1881), the Philosophicum in Basel organises the exhibitions “Frauenbilder” and “Heilige Frauen. Dämonen. Toter Gott”, an exhibition of Russian icons. The event includes other events. On his European trips, Dostoevsky also visited Switzerland and Basel in 1862 and 1867.

The exhibition “Women Pictures” focuses on the crucial role of women in Dostojewsky’s personal life and in his literary work. Women also played an essential role in the reception of his works in Germany, notably Elisabeth Kaerrick (1886-1966) and Svetlana Geier (1923-1920). Two films from the Zwetajewa Centre for Russian Culture at the University of Freiburg are the exhibition’s focus.

The other exhibition concentrates on his literary work and the imagery of the icons. It revolves around the three themes “Women, Demons and dead God”.

The oldest iconographic motif in Russia is the icon of Sophia, the divine Wisdom and Virgin. The phenomenon of evil is another theme in the literary works of Dostoevsky and Christian art, especially the depiction of the underworld or hell.

The third theme ties in with an episode of Dostoevsky’s European journey. He was shocked to see Hans Holbein the Younger’s painting “Corpse in the Tomb” (Leichnam Christi im Grab) at the Kunstmuseum Basel. In Orthodox Christianity, Christ is the triumphant God. 

The exhibition shows Russian icons from Swiss private collections and the Iconenmuseum / Museum Burghalde in Lenzburg.

The project is an initiative of the Zwetajewa Centre and Internationale Graduiertenkollege 1956 (IGK of the University of Freiburg, Iconarium and Philosophicum Basel.

(Source and further information: www.philosophicum.ch).