Russia, ca. 19th century CE. Exquisitely painted in egg tempera, gold leaf and faux enamel, an icon of the mother of God, modeled upon the original wonderworking Kazan image given the elaborate painted halo of the type that once embellished the renowned 16th century prototype. The icon is set in a glass-fronted wood kiot with an ornately carved and gilt liner of high relief grapevines dripping with clusters of the fruit of the vine. The strongly modeled visages and painted gems of the icon suggest a Baroque influence. Size: 25.75" W x 25.75" H (65.4 cm x 65.4 cm)
The opulent presence of this icon with its gilded liner and elegant kiot also attests to a Baroque influence. The Virgin and Child are graced by painted jewels that glow amidst the gold leaf details. Their union is surrounded by a blue, red, and white faux enamel border. Surrounding this is a gilt frame that is incised with floral motifs. Adding even more to this splendor is the large brass finial/vessel -a special place for the faithful to place beeswax candles- decorated with a bejeweled cross and a six-pointed star of blue, red, and white enamel or paste glass inlays fitted to the front of the kiot
According to curator Jeanne Marie Warzeski, "Russian icons of the mother of God—patterned on Byzantine originals— often received their Russian titles from the names of monasteries, towns where they appeared, countries they came from, and prophecies and visions from which they originated. Per tradition, the prototype of this icon came to Russia from Constantinople in the 1200s. After the Tatars besieged the city of Kazan in 1438, the icon disappeared. It reportedly was dug up in Kazan in 1579 by a girl named Matrona and her mother after the Virgin appeared repeatedly in the girl’s dreams, telling her of the buried icon. It was found in the ashes of a destroyed house, beneath the stove, wrapped in cloth. The Kazan Mother of God later became Russia’s symbol of national unity. The icon accompanied soldiers freeing Moscow from the Poles in 1612, and was with the troops fighting Napoleon in 1812, though in the latter case a copy was reputedly used. Some believe a fire destroyed the original icon in Tsar Peter I’s time, when it was housed in the St. Petersburg Cathedral of the Mother of God of Kazan. The image later considered as the “original” was actually a re-creation."
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. 16).
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) like this example which is further embellished by the ornate gilt liner. 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. 16).
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