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Russia, ca. late 19th century CE. A breathtaking festal icon in egg tempera and gilt on wood with a faux enamel border featuring the resurrection of Christ in the center surrounded by a mandorla and standing atop an empty tomb. The Resurrection is the central theme, the "feast of feasts" celebrated not only on Easter but every Sunday. Surrounding this are 12 scenes depicting the events of Holy Thursday and Holy Friday. These scenes are then surrounded by 16 images of feast days celebrated on the liturgical calendar. Size: 10.5" W x 12.25" H (26.7 cm x 31.1 cm)
The faux enamelwork, here delineated in a beautiful combination of sky blue, royal blue, and white highlighted with glimmering gold leaf, was a popular tradition of Russian villages in the 19th century. In addition to this styling, the iconography of complex icons like this example that combine festal and Paschal scenes was also very popular in Russia during the 18th and 19th centuries. Similar to the larger minyeia or calendar icons, festal icons feature a Resurrection image in the center surrounded by 12 scenes of Holy Thursday and Holy Friday, these surrounded by 16 images of feast days celebrated on the liturgical calendar.
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) and the North Carolina Museum of History (October 4, 2013 through March 5, 2014) 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.
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). Some are framed with silver basma. The artist of this example elected to create an intricate faux enamel and gilt border to honor the religious iconography it surrounds. 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-Francis & Lilly Robicsek Collection, Charlotte, NC, part of the Museum Exhibition, Windows into Heaven - Russian Icons from the Lilly and Francis Robicsek Collection of Religious Art, North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh, NC.
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