The history of private museums of the Old Russian art dates back to the first half of the XIX century, when one after another there appeared in Moscow two famous depositaries of the works of icon painting and ancient church objects, owned by M.P. Pogodin and P.F. Korobanov. However their real golden age arrived at the beginning of the XX century, when restoration of icons led to the discovery of the icon as the work of the art of painting, the icon was recognized as one of the greatest phenomena of the artistic culture of the world. An important role in this process belonged to private collectors: N.P. Likhachev in Saint Petersburg, the owner of the largest in the country collection of icon paintings, but especially to painter I.S. Ostroukhov and merchant S.P. Ryabushinsky in Moscow, who opened the first public museums in their own homes. The success of their collections was predetermined by the fortunate combination in the personalities of these people of such qualities as the fine artistic flair of artists and the passion of collectors, deep scientific interest in the object of their collections and the financial abilities of patrons. It is well known that these qualities are the prerequisites for the existence of true high art as well as museums to preserve it, as the latter are the creations of the society which seek almost no profit but require immense investments and attention.
It would seem that the steady growth of private collecting of icon painting over the last two decades, the unprecedented flourishing and broad scale of which clearly resemble the situation at the turn of the XX century, would lead to opening of new private museums. Yet this is not the case, although almost every other owner of icon collections speaks of the intention to open one. The rare exception is E.V. Royzman’s collection of late Old Believers' icon painting of the XVIII–XIX centuries in Ekaterinburg which became the foundation of the Nevyansk Icon Museum that opened in 1999. The second private museum, which still remains the only collection of the Old Russian icon painting in Russia, was founded at the initiative and with the financial support of entrepreneur and patron Mikhail Abramov. The museum officially opened its doors in May 2006, and at that time it was located in the halls of the Vereyskaya Plaza business center in Moscow. It soon became widely known in the professional and broad public circles through a number of art projects and exhibitions. Even compared to the Nevyansk Icon Museum, it is still in its infancy, however, judging by the pace of formation of its collection, by the evident scientific concept, consistently applied in the acquisition process, the new Museum of Russian Icon has a great potential and every chance to see a bright future. This is also supported by an unprecedented fact in the history of Russian collecting– a building in downtown Moscow was reconstructed, redesigned and equipped specially to house the collection of the Museum. To celebrate the grand opening of the Museum the first volume of a scientific catalogue was published, which lists more than one hundred of the most ancient monuments.
The process of formation and enlargement of the collection is based upon the same principles as are applied to state depositaries. The acquisition of monuments is preceded by a comprehensive study conducted by the museum staff and the leading experts on the Old Russian art. All the conditions have been created for the proper storage, display, examination, and professional restoration of the exhibits. Just as it is supposed to be in case with large Russian depositaries, the primary activities of the Museum of Russian Icon are concerned with scientific work, exhibitions and raising the public awareness, and to provide for this, the Museum houses a specialized library, a conference hall, hosts lectures and offers guided tours. The exposition includes partially recreated church interiors and interior of an icon painter’s studio, thus giving the visitors the opportunity to experience the look and feel of the spaces that icons were created for as well as to witness the process of creation of an icon. The development of the Museum of Russian Icon is guided by the idea to make it a place which will encompass private collections of the Old Russian icon painting art, without any violation of the rights of their owners, and make them available to public. The Museum strives to consolidate the collectors, researchers and all creative powers for the sake of preservation and further accumulation of the cultural heritage of Russia, preservation of the integrity of collections of Russian art. And if these intentions are fully realized the new Museum may become the largest private collection of the icon painting art in the world that is open and available to everyone.