Slavic and East European Journal. 2018, 62 (1), 93-117
Counter to common views of art and science as distinct entities, and of modernism as a-historical, this study explores how innovations within mathematics and geometry motivated a re-activation of the medieval Orthodox icon in Russian culture after the Revolution. Focusing on the interaction between theories of mathematical and pictorial spaces, I show how the geometrical studies of the Armeno-Russian mathematician and theologian Pavel Florensky (1882–1937) could constitute a framework for interpreting the idea of the icon’s reverse perspective in the texts of Nikolay Tarabukin (1889–1956), Lev Zhegin (1892–1969) and Boris Raushenbakh (1915–2001). For both Florensky and Tarabukin, the reverse perspective functioned not only within painting, but also as showing a worldview ultimately intended to replace classic Western paradigms of space and perception. Florensky did not directly connect mathematics with his artistic studies. However, Tarabukin, Zhegin, and Raushenbakh described the icon in categories of non-Euclidean geometry and the theory of relativity, as earlier developed by Florensky in his Imaginations in Geometry (1922). I ask: how can the transdisciplinary perception of the icon as presented by Tarabukin, Zhegin, and Raushenbakh be traced back to the transdisciplinary nature of Florensky’s own writings?