Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Nigra sed Formosa: Immersed in Sadness However Beautiful—The Problem of Returning Lost Artifacts

This event was held virtually as a Zoom webinar and streamed via YouTube Live

Please join the Ukrainian Studies Program at the Harriman Institute, Columbia University for a presentation by Oksana Remeniaka (National Academy of Arts of Ukraine; University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy), moderated by Mark Andryczyk (Harriman Institute).

Oksana Remeniaka explores the problem of returning lost artifacts through the example of a work of art that disappeared in the early 20th century and was found in the late 20th century. This masterpiece, an icon created in Byzantium in the first half of the 11th century, was a family relic of the Princes of Halych. This icon of the Holy Virgin received the toponym Kholm (the Holy Virgin of Kholm) after being brought to the new capital of the Halych-Volynian principality by Prince Danylo. The fate of the Kholm Holy Virgin icon is inextricably intertwined with the destinies of the long-suffering Ukrainian people of the Kholm region, who were twice turned into refugees in their native land—a land that became the borderline between Poland and Ukraine. In this way, the history of one icon reflected the history of the war-torn country divided between neighbors. The story of the disappearance and salvation of this work of sacral art is narrated against the background of the violent historical and political events of the 20th century.

Oksana Remeniaka is a Doctor of the History of Art, a Chief of the Laboratory of Modern Art Technologies of the Modern Art Research Institute of the National Academy of Arts of Ukraine, and professor of the Culturology Department at the University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. She is a Member of the Italian Committee of Experts of Fondazione Romualdo Del Bianco. Her special scientific interests are culture of the borderlands and Ukrainian art of the end of 19th to the first half of the 20th century. She is also a leading specialist of Ukrainian 16th-18th century iconography, specifically that of the Polish-Ukrainian borderlands. She is an expert on the highly venerable icon the Virgin Mary of Holm, which was found in Lutsk, in the Volyn Region of Ukraine. Remeniaka is the author of the monograph “Nigra sed Formosa: immersed in sadness however beautiful.” In 2019-20 she is a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at the Harriman Institute, Columbia University.

Event Video