The icons of the Vatican Museums are an important collection of sacred images. They are an expression of the theology, faith and aesthetic canons of the Christianity of the East. The paintings forming part of the collection entered the papal collections after 1762, as part of Sacred Museum, established by Pope Benedict XIV within the Vatican Apostolic Library. The icons exhibited here are a selection of the more significant ones in the collection, chosen on the basis of their iconographic types and cultural areas. Dating from the 15th to the 19th century, they come from post-Byzantine Greece, the Balkan and Slav countries, Russia, the area formerly under Venetian rule, the Adriatic and the Near East. These territories were always linked to the world of Byzantium in which was developed, ever since the first centuries of the Christian era, the peculiar symbiosis between theological doctrine and art that gave form and content to the sacred images we now call icons.
The most frequent type in the collections of the Vatican Museums is that of the devotional icon. These were images, generally of small format, produced for private and domestic prayer. Although they differ in size from the larger icons for display in churches, they represent similar iconographic themes: images of Christ and of the Mother of God, the Saints and liturgical feasts.