Sekulic Icons Collection: The Most Precious Collection of Icons on the Territory of Serbia!
Passionate art lovers and collectors, architect Milan Sekulic (1895-1970) and his wife Pava bequeathed a collection of icons to the city of Belgrade in 1970, and today it represents the largest collection of its kind in Serbia. The assortment is the property of the Belgrade City Museum and it is situated in the apartment of Sekulic’s family in the center of the capital (Uzun Mirkova Street no. 5) in a building that the architect personally designed. In addition to icons, the Sekulic family bequeathed to the city several items from the domain of applied art, primarily handmade furniture designed by the owners themselves.
The most impressive space is the Russian room, which was modelled after traditional Russian interiors. A massive dining table, three armchairs, and a shelf are made of solid oak. The ceiling covered with oak beams is decorated with a copper chandelier designed by the architect Dragisa Brasovan. Most of the icons of the Russian room were created between the 18th and the 20th century, and the most remarkable example is the icon of St. George dating from 1923. It is the work of Leonid Brailovski, architect and chief painter of the National Theater in Belgrade. The icon was a personal gift of the artist to the Sekulic family, given in honor of their Slava Day (Patron Saint Day).
The dining room stands out especially for the luxurious furniture of the company “Bernard Ludwig” from Vienna, made in accordance with the British interiors of the first half of the 18th century.
Icons that are the main feature of the Sekulic collection were created in the period from the 15th to the 20th century in the former Yugoslavia, Greece, Italy, and Russia. The most dominant motif is the Virgin with the Child, and the most significant segment are Greek works that testify of the development of iconography in the post-Byzantine era.
The oldest icon in the collection is the icon of the Holy Trinity represented in the home of Abraham and Sarah (biblical characters of the Old Testament). Harmony, simplicity of composition, slender figures, and elegant movements indicate the iconography of the late 14th and early 15th centuries.
One of the most beautiful examples from the Sekulic collection is the icon of the Mother of God with Christ on a gold background. The tenderness and intimacy of the mother and child, as well as the geometric motifs on the nimbus (halo) of the Virgin, belong to the Byzantine art of the Palaeologan period, which had a great influence on the Cretan art of the 15th century.
Among the icons of the Cretan school, a special position belongs to the masterpiece of Andreas Ritzos, The Virgin of the Passion, from the turn of the 15th to 16th century. Its refined color and impeccable technique indicate the classical Byzantine tradition. The composition is complemented by two angels who carry the instruments of Christ’s suffering.
The icon of St. Catherine, also on a gold background, represents a martyr on the throne, in royal clothes and with a crown. It is depicted with symbols of suffering and martyrdom typical for this saint: a palm branch, wheel, and cross. The royal clothes reveal Venetian influences, and the cloak is interwoven with golden floral motifs.
Collection also includes “Saint John the Baptist and Forerunner” by Konstantin Zane from the 17th century and the artwork of Avesalom Vujicic “Saint Luke Painting the Virgin” from 1673.
In addition to icons, the collection is complemented by the works of the most significant domestic artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. The most beautiful testimonies of 19th-century painting are the portraits and compositions of a religious character by Konstantin Danil, Pavel Djurkovic, Arsenije Teodorovic (Stoning), and Jovan Klajic (Solomon’s Judgement). The monumental Crucifixion (Golgotha) by Stevan Aleksic was created in 1921. The painting indicates misfortune and misery related to the consequences of the First World War.
The Sekulic collection also includes landscapes created between the two wars by Ignjat Job, Marko Celebonovic, and Jovan Bijelic.
One of the artworks that stand out is the portrait of Milan Sekulic, painted by the Croatian painter Marino Tartalja during his stay at Sekulic’s home. This is the only portrait of the famous architect among the pieces and also the only testimony of the collector in his legacy.
Milan Sekulic died in 1970 in Belgrade as one of the most significant Yugoslav architects. According to his architectural plans, approximately 200 buildings were erected in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Sabac, and Smederevska Palanka. He was the creator of the old edifice of the Politika Newspaper Agency, the Palace of Albania in Belgrade, and the Banovina Palace in Novi Sad. Since he had no descendants, he bequeathed his apartment in Uzun Mirkova Street to the city of Belgrade in 1970.