Eastern Europe, Russia, ca. 19th century CE. Finely painted in egg tempera, gold leaf, and gesso on wood, an icon depicting Saint Seraphim of Sarov, the most renowned 19th century saint of Russia. Seraphim was a healer and famous staret possessing the gift of cardiognosis (the ability to 'read' hearts). He is shown wearing a black episcopal vestment and a white-and-green omophorion, with his right hand placed over his heart and his stern gaze fixed upwards. A brilliant coronal halo frames his gray-haired visage, with dozens of fine light rays radiating outwards to an elegant nimbus adorned with colorful sections of faux enamel. Complementing the elegance of the image is a decorative border of stunning Russian strapwork with a series of abstract geometric designs. A beautiful wooden frame houses the icon, with areas of gilding and burgundy-hued paint, and a carved dove colored in silver paint hangs above the image and atop stylized light rays. Size (icon): 5.625" W x 7" H (14.3 cm x 17.8 cm); size (frame): 8.5" W x 11.875" H (21.6 cm x 30.2 cm).
According to Curator Jeanne Marie Warzeski, "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."
About St. Seraphim's biography Warzeski writes, "Saint Seraphim (1759-1833) was the most renowned 19th century saint in Russia. At the age of 66 Seraphim began his career as a spiritual elder. Emerging from his trial of prayer and vigil, he turned to the suffering world as a healer, visionary and spiritual master. He was known as a hard but compassionate taskmaster who taught that every man could achieve Christian perfection in his ordinary life through the practice of prayer." [Warzeski, Jeanne Marie. 2014. "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. 19).]
Provenance: ex-Francis & Lilly Robicsek collection, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
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Surface wear commensurate with age and small losses to painted surface as shown. Fading and losses to gold leaf embellishments on surface, with a small drill hole and chips to verso. Frame has some small perforations, abrasions, and losses to gilded surface, with losses to one wing of dove. Verso of frame has two small loop screws with a suspension wire, as well as an old inventory sticker with "848887" written in blue ink.