soft radiance of the Bulgarian icon is a grand dimension of the fate,
stability and spiritual evolution of the Bulgarians after their conversion
to Christianity during the 9th century. Nameless master painters filled
the dead iconographic scheme with life, exquisiteness and bursts of
colour. The canonical ascetic faces were replaced by youthful looking
saints, humble hermit, venerable prophets and lifelike portraits of
the Blessed Virgin. Their deep-set eyes radiate wisdom and a love
of mankind. The virtuoso line and the vivid, exuberant colour imposed
a new ideal of beauty, previously unknown in the Christian world.
The tradition of the Bulgarian icon was enriched throughout its millennial
history before attaining its zenith during the National Revival period
(17th-19th century). The time was ripe for the manifestation of the
great artistic taste and talent of the Bulgarian. Whole families of
gifted artists brought fame to the three icon-painting schools of
Troyan, Samokov and Bansko. Their art works adorned not only the newly
built churches, they also entered the Bulgarian home. This explains
why icons are so dear to the Bulgarian heart.
The most valuable examples of our icon-painting heritage today are
displayed in the Crypt of the Alexander Nevsky Memorial Cathedral
and the National Museum of Church History and Archaeology in Sofia,
the Museum of History of Art in Varna and the Museum of Wood-carving
and Painting in Tryavna. A considerable part is kept in the altars
of churches and monasteries throughout the country.