The Chapel of the Resurrection in the Catherine Palace marks one year since its post-restoration opening on 12 April 2019. But the eighteenth-century architectural masterpiece by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli keeps unveiling its mysteries.
The Chapel had 114 icons painted on canvas or wood during the eighteenth–early twentieth centuries. Only four of them survived: John of Damascus, Archangel Michael, Archangel Gabriel and Healing of the Paralytic. Rebuilding the Chapel’s iconostasis, the restorers had to paint anew over 40 icons. They based their work on a 1860s watercolour by Eduard Hau and black and white pre-war photographs of the Chapel, as well as on artwork in St Nicholas Naval Cathedral in St Petersburg and St Andrew Church in Kiev.
Healing of the Paralytic is the only “narrative” icon in the Chapel that survived the Nazi occupation during World War Two. Looted and found in 1944 and stored in the reserve collection of Tsarskoe Selo for decades, the icon was restored in 2018 and reinstalled in its original place high up on the south wall of the central hall.
This religious narrative picture was painted by G. Deryabin in 1753. It is based on the story of Jesus’ healing of a paralyzed man, described in Chapter 9 of the Gospel of Matthew. But it is only now that its iconographic source has been traced to Weigel’s Bible of 1695.
Christoph Weigel the Elder (1654-1725) was a jeweler, cartographer and engraver from German Nuremberg, who published several illustrated Bibles. Weigel’s Bibles became very popular in eighteenth-century Russia, where such European illustrated publications of the Holy Scriptures replaced an old manual of icon painting. So began a new stage in Russian church art, with traditional—theological and symbolic—icon painting replaced by religious painting primarily focusing on a historical reading and realistic depiction of the Scriptures. The new trend is obvious in the Catherine Palace Chapel.
Deryabin’s composition and number of figures fully accord with those in Weigel’s engraving , except a decorative canopy added into the extended upper part.
According to Tsarskoe Selo research employees, their work on the surviving icon gives a direction for tracing iconographic sources of other paintings from the Chapel, which were lost during the war but can be re-created.