Russia, ca. 19th century CE. Impressively large and exquisitely executed in egg tempera and gilt on wood, an icon of the Image of Edessa or Mandylion ("Icon Not Made by Hands"), considered to be the first icon because Christ allegedly imparted his true image by placing a cloth over his face. According to curator Jeanne Marie Warzeski, "This tradition speaks to the desire that icons are a true portrait, and to the involvement of the divine and often the miraculous in the art’s creation." Size: 23.5" W x 28" H (59.7 cm x 71.1 cm)
Warzeski, Curator of the "Windows into Heaven" exhibition at the North Carolina Museum of History, explains, "This particular kind of icon reportedly came into existence miraculously, not by the hands of a human painter. According to tradition, King Abgar of Edessa was ill and sent for Jesus. Christ replied by letter, saying that when he had completed his earthly mission and ascended, he would send a disciple to heal Abgar. The story continues that a linen cloth Christ had dried his face on was carried to the king; it contained an impression of Christ’s face. The king was healed when he received the cloth. In this example, the traditional theme is rendered in a sensuous Baroque style that by the 1700s had become more prevalent in Russian religious art."
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. It is also published in the catalogue accompanying the North Carolina Museum of History exhibition by curator Jeanne Marie Warzeski (p. 17).
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
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