Eastern Europe, Russia, ca. late 19th century CE. A breathtakingly beautiful and quite large minyeia depicting the calendar year in egg tempera and gold leaf on wood featuring the Resurrection - the "feast of feasts" celebrated not only on Easter but every Sunday - in the center. Surrounding this are Paschal (or Easter) scenes, and beyond these are 12 reserves that represent the months of the year with each reserve presenting the various saints and events celebrated on each day of that given month, and finally an outer frame of numerous (usually 96) miraculous images of the Mother of God as celebrated on the church calendar. A veritable timetable of sainthood with each figure identified, displaying the feasts of the entire liturgical year, skillfully painted in brilliant jewel tones, more unusual pastel colors, as well as browns and ochres against a glimmering gold leaf ground. Not one color dominates; instead they coexist in breathtaking harmony, a visual reflection of heavenly splendor. And finally, a sumptuous faux enamel border completes the piece. Size: 21.125" L x 17.25" W (53.7 cm x 43.8 cm)
Icons of this grand scale called minyeia depicting the calendar year were very popular in Russia during the 18th and 19th centuries. A minyeia like this example would have hung in a home or a church as worshippers used them to celebrate the feast days. Note that this calendar begins in September, because the Orthodox church calendar begins in September with a celebration of the Nativity of Mary, mother of God, referred to in Orthodox Christianity as the Theotokos.
Calendar icons portray the feast days of the saints in chronological order, usually alternating with movable liturgical feasts, as dictated by the Orthodox calendar, which begins on the first of September. Calendar icons may be referred to as menologia (annual) or synaxaria (monthly), and their many panels are modeled on miniatures featured in manuscript collections of saints' lives. Sometimes the artist has elected to depict saints who are celebrated the same day together, and other times only the first saint celebrated is depicted. Most often saints are depicted standing; however, martyred saints are typically shown at the moment of their martyrdom. The background color for the icon is oftentimes significant, chosen to distinguish various categories of saints. Menologion icons are exhibited in the church on a special lectern called the analogion.
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). This example is embellished with a gorgeous border of faux enamel in navy blue, coral pink, seafoam green, and golden yellow. 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."
Provenance: private Ventura County, California, USA collection
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