**Originally Listed At $1300**
Russia, ca. 19th century CE. A half-length depiction of Saint Matthew the evangelist and apostle, in egg tempera and gold leaf on a wooden roundel with a carved integral 'frame'. Saint Matthew, depicted as an elderly sage with a white beard donning spring pink and autumnal orange robes, holds his open gospel, his blue eyes looking upward as if he has been interrupted from his writing process or is engaged in deep thought. Size: 12.5" in diameter (31.8 cm)
Although we can only see Matthew’s head and torso, one can imagine the evangelist seated in his scriptorium, surrounded by shelves filled with volumes and scrolls, parchments, quills, erasing knives, and inks. Images of the evangelists derived from miniatures of illuminated Gospel books and Gospel lectionaries showing them at work in their scriptoria. These portrayals were oftentimes painted on the outside of the royal doors. Here of course, his likeness is cropped by a circular frame, the pristine form echoing the orb-like halo around his head.
The writings of Matthew are typically shown to be inspired by an angel, or after the 14th century, by Sophia Wisdom, the wingless female figure with a scepter and crowned by a double star halo. The Church Fathers assigned each evangelist one of the four living creatures of the Apocalypse, and Matthew’s symbol was the “son of man” since his writings begin with the human genealogy of Christ. According to Irenaeus of Lyon, “The Word of God made its home among men and became the Son of Man to accustom man to understanding God, and to accustom God to making His home among men.”
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) 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.
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). 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-Lilly and Francis Robicsek Collection of Religious Art, Charlotte, NC; exhibited at Mint Museum of Art "Windows Into Heaven", Charlotte, North Carolina (December 20, 2003 through February 22, 2004)
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