Russia, ca. 19th century CE. A petite icon created for the home, delineated in egg tempera on wood, depicting Saint George atop a white steed plunging his lance into the slithering dragon, dramatically presented in black silhouette, beneath him. Size: 3.5" W x 4.375" H (8.9 cm x 11.1 cm)
Saint George was born in Lydda, Palestine during the 3rd century. He became an officer in the Roman army in guard for Emperor Diocletian, demonstrating impressive skill in battle and receiving high honor for his courage. When he learned that Diocletian was preparing to persecute Christians, George presented himself publicly before the emperor and denounced him. The legend of “Saint George and the Dragon,” which originated in the 12th century, has immortalized the saint. However, this anecdote is rarely presented in iconography. According to tradition, St. George came to Silene in the province of Libya, where a ravaging dragon demanded daily sacrifice. Fate chose the king’s daughter, Elisaba, but George subdued the beast. He told the princess to fasten her sash about the dragon’s neck so it could be led through the town for conversion of the people before it was killed.
This icon most likely was kept in someone’s home. According to Jeanne Marie Warzeski, scholar and curator of the North Carolina Museum of History's "Windows into Heaven" exhibition, "In the early Byzantine Empire, the home became the primary base for the development of icon veneration. Throughout the ensuing centuries, icons continued to receive honor in homes and churches. To this day, many Orthodox Christians create for prayer and meditation in their home a krasny ugol, or “beautiful corner,” where family icons are placed. Guests entering a house customarily honor the icons in the corner by crossing themselves before the objects. An oil lamp is set near the icons and is lit daily, according to Orthodox tradition."
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. Icons are not worshiped, but are instead venerated for their ability to focus the power of an individual's prayer to God. As a focus for prayers and meditation for believers, icons serve as “windows into heaven.”
Provenance: Ex-Francis & Lilly Robicsek Collection, Charlotte, NC
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