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Lot 0105
Russia, ca. 19th century CE. Beautifully painted in egg tempera and gold leaf, this wood Russian icon presents the Virgin Hodegetria ("She who shows the way"), the composition depicting the Mother of God holding the Christ child in one arm, as he makes a blessing gesture. On her shoulders and head, Mary wears a triple, star-shaped cross, which is an ancient Syrian symbol of her virginity - before, during, and following the birth. Size: 14.75" W x 18.75" H (37.5 cm x 47.6 cm)

Since the artist only depicted her head and shoulders, the viewer is invited to gaze upon Christ with the subtle inclination of her visage, particularly given those expressive eyes. The Christ Child is characteristically depicted in a rigid, vertical pose - wearing regal vestments. Adoring diminutive angels peak at the pair from behind the Virgin's halo. The pair is 'framed' by a decorative border with scrolled and floral motifs. Gold leaf highlights accentuate various areas of the composition. This use of golden hues, the serene and regal countenance of Mary's face, as well as the pantomime-like gestures reference classic Byzantine splendor. According to the text accompanying this icon in the brochure for "Windows into Heaven" exhibition, "The example on the left, with its flattened features and stylized drapery, shows adherence to Byzantine painting norms." (p. 16)

The pamphlet also discusses this icon as a fine example of the Mother of God of Kazan version of the Russian Theotokos. "Per tradition, the prototype of this icon came to Russia from Constantinople in the 1200s. It disappeared after the Tatars besieged the city of Kazan in 1438, and then was dug up in Kazan in 1579 by a girl named Matrona and her mother after the Virgin appeared repeatedly in the girl's dreams, telling her of the buried icon. The Kazan Mothr of God later became Russia's symbol of national unity. The icon accompanied soldiers freeing Moscow from the Poles in 1612, and traveled with the troops fighting Napoleon in 1812." (p. 15)

Icons were some of the first religious artworks brought to Russia from Byzantium. These sacred pictures of the Greek Orthodox church reached a high point in the Byzantine era, however, the Russians brought their own style to the art of the icon. Icons were initially created for use in churches and processions. In time they became smaller and were used increasingly within households. To this day they remain an important form of visual culture in Russia's orthodox religious community.

The existence of back slats demonstrate that this icon predates 1880/1890. A lovely example inspired by the icon of the Hodegetria that arrived in Constantinople from Jerusalem, where it was found in the 5th century by the sister-in-law of Emperor Theodosius II. According to Alfredo Tradigo's "Icons and Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church" (2004), "Hidden from the Iconoclasts in a wall at the Hodegon Monastery, it was later carried to the city walls when Constantinople lay under siege and became, under the Palaiologan dynasty (1261-1453), a major palladium protecting the capital. Copies made their way to Rome, the Near East, the Balkans, and Russia." (Tradigo, p. 169)

Exhibited in "Windows Into Heaven: Russian Icons from the Lilly and Francis Robicsek Collection of Religious Art" at the Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina (December 20, 2003 through February 22, 2004) which presented highlights of one of the world's great artistic traditions through an extraordinary group of sixty-five 18th and 19th century Russian icons on loan from the private collection of Lilly and Francis Robicsek. Also featured in an exhibition of the same name at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, North Carolina October 4, 2013 through March 5, 2014. Published in the catalogue accompanying the North Carolina Museum of History written and compiled by curator Jeanne Marie Warzeski.

Icons (icon means "image" in Greek) are sacred objects within the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition. Found in homes as well as churches, these painted images depict holy persons and saints as well as illustrate scenes from the Scriptures. Some icons are encased in precious metal covers (oklads) adorned with pearls and semi-precious stones or glass-fronted wooden cases (kiots). Icons are not worshiped, but are instead venerated for their ability to focus the power of an individual's prayer to God. As such they are truly "windows into heaven."

The “Windows Into Heaven” exhibition profiled a magnificent chapter of Russian artistry, the embrace of the Russian Orthodox faith of religious icons during the Romanov centuries. The Russian religious faith was an offshoot of Byzantine Christianity, which in 1054 parted ways from Roman Catholicism. Icons were and continue to be religious images created for veneration. As a focus for prayers and meditation for believers, icons serve as “windows into heaven.”

Provenance: Ex-Lilly and Francis Robicsek Collection of Religious Art, Charlotte, NC; exhibited at Mint Museum of Art "Windows Into Heaven", Charlotte, North Carolina (December 20, 2003 through February 22, 2004) and North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, North Carolina October 4, 2013 through March 5, 2014

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Nice age to surface with craquelure, age cracks, and losses as shown. Back slats are intact.

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Published 19th C. Russian Icon - Mother of God of Kazan

Estimate $1,800 - $2,500Mar 15, 2017
Louisville, CO, USA