Eastern Europe, Russia, ca. 19th century CE. A large icon delineated in egg tempera and gesso on linen on wood depicting Christ as Savior of the Fiery Eye or Our Savior (Russian Spas) adorned by a beautiful hammered brass halo and flanked by a pair of decorative appliques with inscriptions. In time, this Russian interpretation of a gentle, merciful Christ replaced the stern, fearsome Byzantine Christ. It is in essence a variant of the Pantocrator icon in which the strong, authoritative Judge has instead become a loving presence. According to Warzeski, "Images like this first began appearing in Russia in the 14th century, with the invitation of Greek iconographers by the Russian Orthodox Church. The features - notably, large, staring eyes and small mouth - recall Coptic mummy portraits in Faiyum, Egypt, of the 1st century BCE." (Windows Into Heaven catalogue, p. 17) Size: 17.5" W x 20.5" H (44.4 cm x 52.1 cm)
According to scholar Alfred Tradigo, "In Christ, justice and mercy, truth and peace, are reconciled. This is the Russian Orthodox concept of divine humanity: Christ is at once lord of the universe and the prototype of a transfigured humanity. The Pantokrator's firmness of will and the incandescence of his eyes give way to a more intimate exprssion, a gaze that attracts." (Tradigo, "Icons and Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church" (J. Paul Getty Trust, 2006, p. 246)
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 ornate silver basmas. This icon is embellished with a striking brass halo. 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."
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 of page 17 of the catalogue accompanying the North Carolina Museum of History exhibition by curator Jeanne Marie Warzeski.
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, North Carolina, USA; 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). Published in the accompanying catalogue for this exhibition by curator Jeanne Marie Warzeski on page 17.
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