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Russia, ca. 19th century CE. A beautiful Tikhvin Mother of God icon finely delineated in egg tempera of rich jewel tones and stunning gold leaf. In Greek terms, this composition is called a Theotokos, a favorite theme of the Eastern Church that refers to the Virgin Mary as the mother of Jesus Christ. Russian versions modeled upon Byzantine examples received their Russian names, in this case Tikhvin, from names of monasteries, towns where they appeared, and countries where they originated. Size: 12.25" W x 14" H (31.1 cm x 35.6 cm)
According to Curator Jeanne Marie Warzeski, "The Tikhvin Mother of God is one of the most celebrated and beautiful icons of the Theotokos. Traditionally, it is said that the prototype was one of the icons painted by St. Luke the Evangelist who was contemporary of the Mother of God herself. In the iconographic sense, it is an Odigitria type with the slightly inclined position of the Mother of God toward the Infant, who is depicted on the left side of the image and motioning towards him with her right hand and arm. In this gesturing motion, Mary shows the viewer of this icon “the way” to salvation, i.e., her son, Jesus Christ." Warzeski continues, "This is one of the most highly venerated icons in Russia. According to Church tradition, it was brought from Byzantium where it had been kept at one of the churches in Constantinople, from which it disappeared on numerous occasions and then reappeared again. In the 14th century, following another disappearance, it unexpectedly emerged in Rus where it remained afterwards. Numerous copies of the icon were made and later on were associated with miracles. Particularly famous among them is a copy which accompanied troops during the Napoleonic War (1812) and during the Crimean War (1855-1856). During the Soviet oppression of the Orthodox Church, the original Theotokos of Tikhvin icon was brought to the USA for safekeeping. In 2004 it was transferred back to Russia to return to its home village of Tikhvin."
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. Published in the catalogue accompanying the North Carolina Museum of History exhibition by curator Jeanne Marie Warzeski (p. 15).
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 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. Published in the catalogue accompanying the North Carolina Museum of History exhibition (p. 15).
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