In 1218 Yaroslavl became the capital of an independent Principality of Yaroslavl. A rapid church growth facilitated the development of the local icon-painting school. The specific features of the Yaroslavl icon-painting are clear colors, free and challenging painting style. The images are emphatically decorated, sometimes even excessively, which makes them especially joyful. This manner is also manifested in the depiction of the icon characters’ faces, in which austerity gives way to kindness and benevolence.
One of the most remarkable examples of the Yarslovl icon-painting is the icon of The Mother of God – the Great Panagia painted ca. 1224. In the fashion of the Virgin’s vestment one can find a tendency to use the ornaments so valued in the folklore art; the wealth of white color (in the angels’ haloes and vestments and the medallion framework) is very untypical of the Byzantine palette. Also typical for the Yaroslavl icon-painting is a pink blush laid over the saturated greenish sankir. The image of Christ depicted in the medallion lacks austerity, so typical of the Byzantian tradition; the child’s arms, extended towards the viewer, creates an impression of hope.
The middle of the 13th century marks the appearance of a typically Russian image of the Savior icon. Prevailing in its features are kindness, modesty, meditativeness but not austerity. The icon of The Mother of God – the Great Panagia anticipates the emergence of harmonic images of Andrei Rublev. As the main features of the Yaroslavl icon-painting one can note ornamentality, clear colors, emotional images, challenging solutions and departure from the Byzantine iconographic traditions.
Under Ivan the Terrible Yaroslavl became one of the key trade centers with sluzhilye lyudi (service class people) playing a significant social role. By the number of stone churches built in that period, Yaroslavl even surpassed Moscow. The rapid church growth facilitated the evolution of the local icon-painting school which reached its highest development in the 17th century. The Yaroslavl icons often depict historical or daily life themes. The icon of The Life of SS. Basil and Constantin depicts princes of the first Yaroslavl dynasty, while the image of the Virgin of the Tolga with Border Scenes represents the history of the Tolga Monastery since its establishment in 1314. The border scenes are separated from the main image by ornamental stripe with obscured colors against bright golden background and rare inclusions of cinnabar representing distinctive features of the local art school.
After the great fire in Yaroslavl in the second half of the 17th century, all stone churches were decorated with frescoes. The murals were created by a group of masters among which were Gury Nikitin, Sila Savin, Fedor Zubov (the father of the future engravers of Peter I’s epoch), Semyon Kholmogorets and many other icon-painters. The icons painted by Semyon Kholmogorets, a prominent master of the Yaroslavl icon-painting school of the 17th century, are distinguished for their worked-out details and depiction of characters. In 1678 he created one of the most remarkable icons of The Life of St. Elijah the Prophet abundant in exquisite details and ornaments. From the 1680s the Yaroslavl masters gained a national prominence, they were invited to paint churches in many towns of Russia. The Yaroslavl icons of that time are noted for consistent depiction of scenes, laconic images, austere silhouettes and wealth of details.