Wednesday, October 26, 2016

33 Icons from the Bible, with footnotes, 6

Deesis - Christ Enthroned with Saints, c. 1460-1470
Tempera on panel
16.6 x 26.2 x 2 cm (6 9/16 x 10 5/16 x 13/16 in.)
Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge

Late 15th - early 16th century
Egg tempera on lime wood
141 x 102. 
From the village of Richytsya, Rivne region. 
Rivne Museum of Local Lore, Ukraine / Rivnenska / Rivne

At the turn of the 16th century a rare type of the image of Christ Pantocrator (or the Omnipotent, below) became popular in the Ukraine. It presents Christ's figure, more often knee-length (sometimes full-length, sitting on the throne), in a characteristic almost frontal posture. He is blessing with His right hand while in His left one He holds the open Book of Gospel. Peculiar for this composition is the representation of half-figures of the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist flanking the head of the Savior, and of the Twelve Apostles on borders from both sides. In fact, it is a complete Deesis. Such composition of the Deesis which comprised a register of the iconostasis is not yet found in Ukrainian art of the period, later, however, from the latter half of the 16th century, The Deesis included only Christ Pantocrator, the Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist and the Twelve Apostles, six on each side.
The icon from the village of Richytsya is a monument of exceptional artistic quality demonstrating the traditions of the painting technique in Kyivan Rus'. The immaculate representation of every image, the refined coloring and a subtle taste of the artist speak of a major school of some significant art center which drew on the traditions of high professional skill over centuries. More

Late 15th century
Egg tempera on lime wood
120 x 59.5
From the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin in the village of Starychi, Lviv region
Lviv National Museum

The icon presents the rarest type of the image of Christ Pantocrator. His full-length figure is draped in the heavy folds of a himation from which His right hand, in a gesture of blessing, is shown slightly emerging, while in His left hand He holds a closed Gospel. Despite the fact that Ukrainian icon-painting was at that time developing without religious censorship, the complicated political circumstances of the Ukraine demanded strict adherence to the canons of Old Rus' art which, in their turn, were borrowed from Byzantium. The polysemy of medieval art provided the opportunity of treating in this composition the image of Christ also as Pantocrator, the Judge who opens the Gospel on Doomsday. This is evidenced also by small half-figures of the Virgin and St. John the Baptist, seen in the upper corners of the icon. Being next to the Pantocrator, they impart to the icon the sense of Deesis (entreaty).
This icon bears the echo of monumental art, felt in the treatment of the solemn figure of Christ and the drapery of the wide himation and observed in the artist's deliberate emphasis, by means of size, on Christ's head and His right hand. Such conventionality was characteristic for Old Rus' art. It permitted the medieval painter to emphasize one or another detail and sometimes an attribute, and to thus accentuate their significance. More

15th century
. Egg tempera on lime wood.
135 x 83
From the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin in the village of Vanivka (Poland)
Lviv National Museum

This subject appeared in Byzantine art as far back as the 9th century, its literary sources being St. James' version of the Gospel and pseudo-Gospel according to St. Matthew. All representations of this theme are characterized by their narrativeness and bear, to some extent, the same features. The earliest composition on this subject in the art of Kyivan Rus' can be found in the 11th-century fresco in Kyiv's St. Sophia Cathedral. The main personage, St. Anna (mother of the Virgin Mary), is usually represented reclining on a bed (sometimes she is arising from it); she is surrounded with servants who, according to a Byzantine tradition, bring gifts, bathe a newly-born baby, or are preparing for these action. With time, the composition became enriched with such details like the wall dividing the representation into two conventional scenes. Often the image of St. Joachim (Mary's father) is depicted. The Ukrainian icon renders accurately all the elements peculiar to the iconography of the subject in Orthodox art. The theme preserves its solemn air which is emphasized by pavilions with complicated architectural forms, with veils thrown over them, ornaments and fern-like bushes decorating the terra verde of the foreground. More

19th C. Mother of God of Kykkos
Egg tempera and lacquers on leaf
97 x 59,5 x 2,9 cm
Private Collection

The name of this icon comes from that of Mt.Kykkos in the north-western part of Cyprus. The holy image, which, according to a legend, was painted by the Apostle St.Luke, was sent by him to the Egyptian Christians. In Egypt, however, disturbances broke out and. in order to save the icon, it was transported to a secluded island. On the way there it was seized by Arabs, but soon Byzantines recaptured it and sent it to the imperial palace in Constantinople. In the reign of Emperor Alexius Comnenus (1081-1118), the icon was transported to Cyprus. There exist numerous legends associated with this event, which tell about countless cures of members of the imperial family and common people. This miracle-working icon has one interesting feature: no one can see its original, for it is kept under a coverlet. He who dares lift the coverlet will suffer God's punishment. In 1699, Patriarch Gerasimus of Alexandria removed the coverlet and was punished. Only after he offered a prayer to the Mother of God was his wrongdoing forgiven. Apparently, it was in the 17th century that copies of this miraculous icon appeared in Russia. More

19th C. Eleven scenes with Central Dormition
Iron alloy pate. Egg and oil tempera with outlines, halos and details made of gold leaf.
91 x 64,7 x 0,3 cm.
Private Collection

19th C. Eleven scenes with Central Dormition
Detail, Center Panel

18 C. Saint Venera
Egg tempera on gold ground with relieved decorations. 
85 x 59 x 1,6 cm
Private Collection

Saint Venera, or Veneranda, is venerated as a Christian martyr of the 2nd century. Little is known of this saint. The date of her death is traditionally given as July 26, 143 AD. Veneranda was born in Gaul in the 2nd century and martyred in Rome during the time of Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161 AD).[3]

According to one version of her legend, her parents were two noble Christians named Agatho (Agatone) and Hippolyte (Ippolita). When their daughter was born, the mother wanted to call her Venera, but the father, not wanting to create associations with the goddess Venus, changed his daughter’s name to Veneranda, a rough Latin translation of the Greek name Paraskevi ("Friday," literally "Preparation"). Venera or Veneranda studied the Scriptures and lives of the martyrs as a child, and when her parents died, she dedicated herself to helping the poor and the sick. She distributed her wealth across Sicily. She preached on the Italian mainland as well, such as at Calabria and Campania.

Giacinto Platania
Santa Venera

She was on her way to Rome when she was arrested by the Roman prefect Antonius, who attempted to force her to renounce her faith with temptations and an offer of marriage, and then by torture. Antonius had her wear a helmet of red-hot iron, had her nailed on a cross, and placed on her chest a large block of sandstone. However, Venera survived all of these tortures and converted the men who were assigned to torture her. The prefect had her placed in a hot cauldron of oil and sulfur for seven days, but Venera was unharmed. The prefect, after seeing that Venera was unharmed, asked the saint if it was magic that was keeping her unharmed. When Venera asked the prefect to approach the cauldron to determine this, he refused. Venera then scooped up some of the burning sulfur and oil in her hand, and threw it in the prefect’s face, blinding him. Subsequently, Antonius freed her and converted to Christianity.

Venera then converted many across Magna Graecia, and drew the attention of a ruler named Themius or Theotimus, who also subjects Venera to tortures, including the ones that Saint Agatha is said to have suffered –the slicing off of a breast. Venera also vanquished a dragon. Themius was also subsequently converted. Venera then traveled to Gaul, and was ultimately decapitated after once again enduring tortures under the prefect Asclepius. Before dying, Venera demolished a temple dedicated to Apollo by reciting a prayer. Her body was left unexposed to the elements but remained miraculously intact. More

Christ Pantocrator
XIII th century.
The Deists of the Cathedral of Saint Sophia in Istanbul , Turkey 

In Christian iconography, Christ Pantocrator refers to a specific depiction of Christ. Pantocrator, or Pantokrator, is used in this context, a translation of one of many names of God in Judaism.

When the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek as the Septuagint, Pantokrator was used both for YHWH Sabaoth "Lord of Hosts" and for El Shaddai "God Almighty". In the New Testament, Pantokrator is used once by Paul. Aside from that one occurrence, John of Patmos is the only New Testament author to use the word Pantokrator. The author of the Book of Revelation uses the word nine times, and while the references to God and Christ in Revelation are at times interchangeable, Pantokrator appears to be reserved for God. More

Hagia Sophia was a Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica (church), later an imperial mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its construction in 537 AD, and until 1453, it served as an Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted by the Fourth Crusaders to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire of Constantinople. The building was later converted into an Ottoman mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935. More

Christ Pantocrator
Monastery of  St. Catherine in Sinai,
VI th century (500-550) 

He holds the Bible and blessed the left side of the right hand, fingers together: the index and middle fingers outstretched symbolize the dual human and divine nature of Christ, the thumb, ring and pinkie rings represent the Trinity. It will be noticed on many other images that the thumb and ring join (double nature) while the other three fingers (Trinidad) are stretched.

Christ Pantocrator
Pantocrator Monastery of  St. Catherine in Sinai,
XIII th century

Saint Catherine's Monastery , officially "Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai" lies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai, in the city of Saint Catherine, Egypt in the South Sinai Governorate. The monastery is controlled by the autocephalous Church of Sinai, part of the wider Eastern Orthodox Church, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Built between 548 and 565, the monastery is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world. The site contains the world's oldest continually operating library, possessing many unique books including the Syriac Sinaiticus and, until 1859, the Codex Sinaiticus. A small town with hotels and swimming pools, called Saint Katherine City, has grown around the monastery. More

Christ Pantocrator of  Chelandari
Monastery of Mount Athos
XII th - XIII th century.

Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in northeastern Greece and an important centre of Eastern Orthodox monasticism. It is governed as an autonomous polity within the Greek Republic under the official name Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain (Greek: Αὐτόνομη Μοναστικὴ Πολιτεία Ἁγίου Ὄρους). Mount Athos is home to 20 monasteries under the direct jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. More

11th century
Egg tempera on lime wood
174 x 122. 
From the Dormition Cathedral of the Kremlin, Moscow

St. George is one of most favorite personages of the Christian pantheon of saints. His legendary life is shown from the 5th century when the iconography of his image as a holy warrior and a great martyr, was depicted in Byzantium, in the city of Thessalonica where in the 5th century a church was erected and consecrated in his honor. The fact that St. George was the patron saint of Kyivan Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise (978-1054) who was baptized with the name of George, greatly favored St. George's cult in Kyivan Rus'. Thus, in Kyiv's St. Sophia Cathedral (1017), a chapel was consecrated in honor of St. George and its walls, vaults and the concha of the apse feature frescos representing scenes from his life. Not far from the St. Sophia, St. George's Cathedral was erected (1037-1050s) which has not survived to the present.

The Icon St. George is one of the few preserved from those remote years. It illustrates the ideal of Old Rus' warrior. One cannot but feel an epic mood permeating the icon and an echo of Hellenistic traditions. The icon is huge: the saint's stature is twice a normal man's size. The elevated but reserved manner, impeccable painting and lines are typical of other masterpieces created during the rule of Old Rus' Grand Princes. In fact, this icon might have been the principal one in Kyiv's St. George's Cathedral. More

Late l5th century
Egg tempera on lime wood
114 x 79. 
Ukrainian State Museum of Ukrainian Fine Arts

In this icon the artist turned to the type of subject most popular in the Ukraine, which includes an episode of St. George's rescue of Princess Elisava from a ravenous dragon. Such was the subject in folklore: "There were pagan people who did not believe in God, but in Smok, a ferocious Dragon with flame blazing from its mouth and sparks flashing from its eyes. They sacrificed to Smok a man every hour. Then came the time for the czar either to come himself, or to give it his daughter. And so St. Yur came on a white horse and carrying a spear. He struck Smok between the eyes, slaying him forever. This is written to the whole world, sent to all people, to read and to write, St. George to glorify."

Unlike other icons on this subject, the artist solved the problem of composition in an original way: here the spear with which the saint slays the dragon is leveled by an angel which has appeared from the sky, and the horse's hooves trample the dragon while Princess Elisava, full of gratitude, kneels before the victor. The background of the icon against which the event is developing is also unusual: it presents a Gothic castle with its unique decorations, like pinnacles, weather-vanes, and gears to raise a drawbridge; even guards are represented as two knights with spears. A crowd of witnesses is on the tower, including Elisava's parents with crowns on their heads.

Despite a certain Gothic influence evident also in definite stylistic devices like the sharply broken folds of St. George's red cloak, the icon bears traditional features of Ukrainian art: decorative flatness and obligatory conventionality, due to which the life of a saint was never identified with the life of a common man. More

15th century
116 x 54
Egg tempera on lime wood.
From St. Nicholas' Church in the village of Turye, Lviv region
Lviv National Museum

In this icon St. George is represented in a characteristic attitude of entreaty. The saint is festively attired: the hem and the edging of his tunic are decorated with pearls and other precious stones and his cloak is fastened with a fibula. Such festivity is an echo of the court ceremony of Byzantine emperors which influenced Christian iconography. St. George's image, nevertheless, is imbued not with a secular feeling but with a deep sense of religious meditation. It impresses with its poetic mood and lyricism. More

15th century
Egg tempera on lime wood
33 x 50
From the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Drohobych, Lviv region

The Deesis, to which the icon of the Archangel Michael belongs, has scarcely been preserved: the main personages of the central section, the Virgin Mary and Christ Pantocrator, have been lost, but the range of interceders, albeit not complete, including the icons of St. John the Baptist, the Apostle Peter, the Apostle Paul, St. John Chrysostom and St. Nicholas, has survived.

So we can maintain that once the icons comprised an entire register of the iconostasis. The Deesis range bears an emphasized concept of festivity: the background of the icons are decorated with ornamental patterns, bright flowers are painted on the terra verde, while the Archangel Michael is attired in a dalmatic, a lorum and a mantle studded with precious stones and pearls. He presents the so-called 'lorum' type of the archangel, which was popular in Byzantium and could be found in Kyiv's St. Sophia as early as the first half of the 11th century. More

15th century
Egg tempera on lime wood
91.5 x 77.5. 
Lviv National Museum, Lviv, Ukraine,

The icon presents a classical type of the Virgin Odegetria. Its originality lies in the representation of half-figures of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, which enhance the solemn character of the image and impart to it the meaning of Majesty. It is one of the first Ukrainian icons which rendered a highly lyrical image of Mary as Odegetria, somewhat unusual for the Directress. She possesses a special maidenly beauty, charming in its refinement. Her head is covered with a dark-red maphorion, her neck is long and her adoring eyes seem to be full of sadness. The entire image of the Virgin is permeated with an unending sense of desolation, as, with a delicate gesture at her right hand, she points to the Child who is under an imminent death penalty. The image of Mary admirably comprises Hellenic and Byzantine features. Little Christ is shown as a sage who gives a blessing with His right hand while in the left He holds a Gospel scroll. He is concentrated and restrained, as though having a foreboding of His future sufferings.

This icon belonging to the Lviv painting school served as a pattern for numerous works of the same type executed in Lviv Region in the mid-l6th century. More

The Virgin Hodegetria
68 × 46 cm
Tretyakov Gallery of Moscow, Russia

A Hodegetria: "She who shows the Way", or Virgin Hodegetria, is an iconographic depiction of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) holding the Child Jesus at her side while pointing to Him as the source of salvation for humankind. In the Western Church this type of icon is sometimes called Our Lady of the Way.

The most venerated icon of the Hodegetria type, regarded as the original, was displayed in the Monastery of the Panaghia Hodegetria in Constantinople, which was built specially to contain it. Unlike most later copies it showed the Theotokos standing full-length. It was said to have been brought back from the Holy Land by Eudocia, the Empress of Theodosius II (408–450), and to have been painted by Saint Luke. The icon was double-sided, with a crucifixion on the other side, and was "perhaps the most prominent cult object in Byzantium".

The original icon has probably now been lost, although various traditions claim that it was carried to Russia or Italy. There are a great number of copies of the image, including many of the most venerated of Russian icons, which have themselves acquired their own status and tradition of copying. More

Transfiguration of Christ, Byzantine artwork, c. 1200
Mosaic on stucco
Height: 52 cm (20.5 in). Width: 35 cm (13.8 in).
 (Byzantine Empire))
Louvre Museum, Paris

The subject is based on narration found in the Gospels of St. Mark, St. Matthew and St. Luke. They tell how, accompanied by His three closest disciples, Peter, James and John, Christ ascended Mount Tabor to pray. While He was praying, the Apostles were overpowered by sleep. They were roused from their slumber by the shining radiance of glory - an overpowering light streaming from the Lord, and they beheld Christ's countenance shining as the sun, and His raiments white as the light. The Apostles beheld standing next to Christ two men, Moses and Elijah. The Transfiguration is one of the Twelve High Feasts, and churches were dedicated to it as early as the times of Kyivan Rus'.

15th century
110 x 79. Egg tempera on lime wood.
From St. Demetrius' Church in the village of Zhogatyn (Poland)
Lviv National Museum, Lviv, Ukraine

On the icon from St. Demetrius' Church, Christ is represented full-length in white attire and seated in a mandorla, which symbolizes His glory and looks: like two rhombi inscribed in a circle with rays. Flanking Him are the Prophets Elijah and Moses. Below are the Apostles, overwhelmed by the miraculous phenomenon of the transfiguration. St. Peter pathetically addresses Jesus Christ, St. James sits pondering and shielding his eyes from the bright light, and St. John is seen falling from the mount (to emphasize the energy of the Apostle's falling the artist painted details such as a sandal dropping from his foot). The artist's brushwork is spirited and somewhat sketchy. Being blessed with an unusual feeling for coloring, he paints every figure with a bright clear color against the restrained warm- green background of hills, thus attaining not only a decorative effect but a certain dramatic quality inherent in the subject itself. More

18th C. Ethiopian Triptych Wooden Icon

Ethiopia, Central and Northern Highlands, Amhara or Tigrinya peoples, ca. 18th Century CE. A carved wooden triptych, painted in rich tempera and gold leaf with depictions of the Virgin and Child on the central panel flanked by two panels likely representing Saints Anne and Joachim respectively. During this period, Ethiopian artists were increasingly exposed to forms of expression from Europe and diptychs and triptychs like this example became popular among the nobility. The paintings present a wide range of jewel-tone colors and a wonderful command of line. Somewhat similar to Byzantine icons in that the compositions boldly renounce perspective and press the figures close to the picture plane, the paintings also display an embrace of figural frontality. Size: when opened 14.25" W x 11.25" H (36.2 cm x 28.6 cm); 7" W (17.8 cm) closed

18th C. Ethiopian Triptych Wooden Icon
Detail Left Panel

18th C. Ethiopian Triptych Wooden Icon
Detail Right Panel

18th C. Ethiopian Triptych Wooden Icon
Detail Center Panel

Lady Achtyrskaja, (of Akhtyrka)
Russia, 19th century with four Saints on the sides
Tempera with gold on wood. 
Gold colored Metal Cladding
37 x 30.5 cm.

Saint. Sergius of Radonezh at his parents' grave 
Russia, 19th century
Tempera with gold on wood
18 x 14.5 cm.

Saint Nicholas 
Russia (St. Petersburg), around 1887
Tempera on wood. Metal Cladding
 hallmark  (Goldberg 1188, 1212), Champion IE . Besch. 
18 x 14 cm

Lamentation of Christ
Upper Rhine, Late 15th century
Oil on wood
46 x 35.5 cm

19th C. Russian Icon, Coronation of the Virgin

Russia, ca. 19th century CE. A finely painted wooden icon depicting the Coronation of the Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven featuring the Virgin Mary with her hands in a prayerful pose, standing or floating above the billowing clouds and winged angels of heaven, crowned by God the Father and Jesus Christ, with the Dove of the Holy Spirit hovering above the scene. The figures are painted with tranquil visages displaying naturalistic features, the volumes, poses, and gestures of their forms highlighted by cascading draperies, the tempera palette of pastel blues and pinks. On the verso are back slats or panel cross members which were created to prevent warping during the drying process and usually indicate that the icon was created prior to 1890. A special example of a sacred scene depicted by such esteemed artist as Giovanni Bellini, Gentile da Fabriano, and Fra Filippo Lippi. Size: 10.75" W x 13.5" H (27.3 cm x 34.3 cm) 

18th C. Russian Brass Plaque w/ Angels & Saints

Russia, ca. 18th century CE. A small brass plaque, possibly a replica of a portal to a church (except for the fact that we do not have a double door here, but bear with me), the square section depicting a scene of the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the suffering souls surrounding her await their fate in Purgatory, the 'tympanum' shaped section above depicting the Second Coming of Christ as king and judge of the world in its final days surrounded by six winged angels. The Virgin holds banners inscribed with Russian phrases which most likely serve to identify which souls will be ascending to heaven and which souls will have to face a less blissful future in hell. Additional inscriptions are featured above the Virgin's halo and in the mandorla surrounding Christ. A finely executed and deeply symbolic religious icon. Size: 3.25" W x 5.5" H (8.3 cm x 14 cm)

18th C. Russian Wood

18th C. Russian Wood
Detail, Top

18th C. Russian Wood
Detail, Bottom

Russia, 18th century CE. One of the finest and rarest icons we have had the pleasure of handling. Eleven early brass icons of the type most commonly associated as traveling icons set into a wooden frame - the frame created at the same time as the brass icons. With the exception of the center icon of Madonna and Child, all are enameled examples depicting various Saints and events in the life and crucifixion of Christ. A remarkable and touching example of religious art! Size: 9" W x 12.5" H (22.9 cm x 31.8 cm)

18th C. Russian Traveling Triptych Enameled Icon

Russia, 18th century CE. A stunning brass enameled triptych icon, showing, from left to right, the Virgin Mary, Christ as an adult, and an angel, probably Gabriel, holding the Christ child. Pale and dark blue enamel give depth to the scenes. Each are densely packed with symbolism. Mary gestures to a text written on a scroll, her head tilted downward. Christ stands holding a book with his right hand raised in blessing, his fingers spelling out “IC XC”, a widely used four letter abbreviation of the Greek for Jesus (IHCOYC) Christ (XPICTOC). In addition to spelling out “I” and “X”, his three fingers speak to the concept of the Holy Trinity of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The touching finger and thumb spell out “C”, and also attest to the Incarnation, the concept that, in corporeal form, Jesus is both divine and human in nature. In the third scene, Gabriel seems to dote upon the Christ child, one finger raised as if to entertain him. Throughout are the ornate designs and heavy detail common in Christian Orthodox art; the climbing vines visible behind Mary and Christ are particularly beautiful. Size: 14.7" W x 5.3" H (37.3 cm x 13.5 cm)

Images are copyright of their respective owners, assignees or others

Acknowledgement: Artemis GalleryNeumeisterCzerny's International Auction House

Images are copyright of their respective owners, assignees or others