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  • Place of origin:

    Kiev (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1784 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embossed, pierced and engraved partially gilded silver (parcel-gilt) and iron

  • Credit Line:

    The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Museum number:

    LOAN:GILBERT.97:1, 2-2008

  • Gallery location:

    Gold, Silver and Mosaics, Room 71, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries, case EXP []

These magnificent gates were made for an Orthodox church in a monastery in Kiev. They are traditionally said to have been given to the monks by Catherine the Great of Russia. Such gates, normally of painted and gilded wood, stand at the centre of the iconostasis (wall of icons) in an Orthodox church. They separate the nave from the sanctuary and form the focal point of the church. The relief panels represent (clockwise from top left) the annunciation of Christ's birth, his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the four evangelists (John, Luke, Mark and Matthew).

Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde formed one of the world's great decorative art collections, including silver, mosaics, enamelled portrait miniatures and gold boxes. Arthur Gilbert donated his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996.

Physical description

The gates are formed as a pair of long vertical doors hinged at the sides and opening outward. Each is pierced and embossed with a pattern of parcel-gilt flowers, scrolls and birds with three oval medallions arranged vertically at equal intervals. The upper medallion panel on the left gate represents the Annunciation and on the right the Entry of Christ into Jerusalem; those below represent the evangelists Matthew (centre left), John (centre right), Mark (lower left), and Luke (lower right). Each medallion is contained within a scroll, flower and shellwork cartouche. The upper border of each door is of irregular scroll profile, rising towards the centre. The central column is attached to the right door and is of nearly semicircular section, with pierced scrolls and flowers applied to the upper and lower ends and the centre; a spiral pattern of flowers is embossed along its length. The centre is engraved with an oval medallion of Christ as the Great Bishop. Rosettes are applied at intervals to the plain side borders of the gates. The lower border of each door is flat-chased with a lengthy Cyrillic inscription in Old Church Slavonic.

Place of Origin

Kiev (made)


ca. 1784 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Embossed, pierced and engraved partially gilded silver (parcel-gilt) and iron

Marks and inscriptions

These gates in the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God were made during the reign of the very Orthodox Sovereign Empress Ekaterina Alexeievna and her heir the Orthodox Sovereign Tsesarevich Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich and his spouse the Orthodox Lady Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna and the Orthodox Lords Grand Dukes Alexander Pavlovich and Konstantin Pavlovich and the Orthodox Lady Grand Duchess Alexandra Pavlovna, with the blessings of the Lord Archimandrite Father Zosim Valkevich of the Pechersk Lavra of Kiev and with the dedicated effort of the Keeper of the same Pechera, the Elder of the Cathedral, Hieromonach Vitalii, 1784, the eleventh day of March. The weight in silver [is] two pouds [sic], six lots. Sixty-Six foreign chervonets [gold pieces of Dutch, Italian, or Austrian origin] were used for gilding.

Kindly provided by Tim Stanley 1 March 2017

The inscription records that the gates were made for the the church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God in the Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra, the famous and beautiful cave monastery in Kiev. It mentions the Archimandrite Zosima Valkevich, who was head of the Lavra from 1762 to 1786, and the Hieromonachos Vitaly, who seems to have supervised the production of the gates. It gives the date 31 March 1784 in Cyrillic numerals, and it ends with the weights of silver and gold used in producing the gates. A weight of two pudy and a number of loty is given for the silver – I cannot tell whether the figure for the loty is 6 (S) or 600 (X) or a combination of the two. As far as I can tell, 66 foreign ducats were used for the gilding, although there is a sign at the end of the text, after the 66, which may be another numeral.

The big question is the role of the imperial family in the commission. The Empress Catherine, her son Paul, his wife Maria Feodorovna, and their three children then living, Alexander, Constantine and Alexandra, are all named before the Archimandrite, but the wording is opaque to me. It could just record that the commission was carried out in Catherine’s reign, or she could have made the donation in the name of her entire family. I think the latter is more likely.


Height: 232.4 cm, Width: 102.9 cm

Object history note

Provenance: Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God, Pechersk Lavra, Kiev. Purchased from the Goldschmidt Gallery, Berlin on 9 October 1935; William Randolph Hearst. San Simeon, California. Francis Stonor, London. Purchased from S.J. Phillips, Ltd., London, 1972.

Catherine II visited the Pechersk Lavra monastery as Grand Duchess in the 1740s and again in 1787 when she was in Kiev for several months prior to a triumphant tour of the Crimea. She had annexed the Crimea in 1783 but the planned major tour to celebrate the acquisition was postponed due to an outbreak of plague and the urgent need to inspection new naval installations with Potemkin. It is likely that the commission for these gates was made in 1783 to mark the annexation. There were several Ukrainian clerics in Catherine's inner court circle with close ties to Kiev and Pechersk. (Information kindly provided by Erin McBurney March 2017).

Descriptive line

Embossed, pierced and engraved silver, parcel-gilt and iron, Kiev, 1784.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Mislavskii, Samuil. Kratkoe istoricheekoe opisanie Kievo-Pecherskoi Lavry (Brief historical description of the Kiev-Pechersk Monastery). Kiev (Tipografia Akademii Kievskoi) 1975, p. 45.
Bolkhovitinov, Evgenii. Opisanie Kievo-Pecherskoi Lavry s prisovokupleniem raznykh grammat... (Description of the Kiev Pechersk Monastery including various offical documents...) Kiev (Tipografia Kievo-Pecherskoi Lavry) 1826, p. 71.
Henderson, Ebenezer. Biblical Researches and Travels in Russia, including a Tour in the Crimea. London: J. Nisbet, 1826, p. 181.
'Cathedral Gates in Silver Gilt Given by Catherine the Great'. The Antique Collector, vol. 32, April 1961, pp. 66-67.
Petrenko, Marko Z. Ukrainske zolotarstvo XVI-XVIII st. (Ukranian goldsmithing, sixteenth to eighteenth centuries). Kiev (Naukovo Dumka) 1969, pp. 41, 139, 193.
Hayward, J.F. (John Forrest). Virtuoso goldsmiths and the triumph of Mannerism, 1540-1620. [London]: Sotheby Parke Bernet Publications, 1976; New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1976, pp. 117, pl. A, 121.
Schroder, Timothy. The Gilbert collection of gold and silver. Los Angeles (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) 1988, cat. no. 166, pp. 608-612. ISBN.0875871445
Schroder, Timothy, ed. The Gilbert Collection at the V&A. London (V&A Publishing) 2009, p.18, pl. 8. ISBN9781851775934
Jones, William Ezelle. Exhibition catalogue, Monumental silver: selections from the Gilbert Collection. Los Angeles (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) 1977, cat. no. 43.
Donahue, Kenneth, A Decade of Collecting: 1965-1975, Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1975.

Labels and date

Kiev monastery gates
About 1784

These magnificent gates were made for an Orthodox church in a monastery in Kiev. An inscription at their base states that they were given by Catherine the Great of Russia.
Such gates, normally made of painted and gilded wood, usually stand at the centre of the iconostasis (wall of icons). They separate the nave from the sanctuary and form the focal point of the church.

Kiev, Ukraine; Gregory Chizhevski (active 1775–1800)
Silver, gilded silver and iron
Formerly in the collection of William Randolph Hearst (1863–1951)
The relief panels represent (clockwise from top left): the Annunciation of Christ’s birth, his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.97:1, 2-2008 [16/11/2016]


Silver; Iron; Silver-gilt


Embossing; Piercing; Engraving (incising); Parcel gilding; Moulding


Architectural fittings; Metalwork


Metalwork Collection

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