Sunday, December 4, 2016

13 Icons from the Bible, with footnotes, #8

Fiery Ascension of the Prophet Elijah with the New Testament Trinity and Saints
Greece, 18th century
Tempera and oil on panel
51 by 40.5cm, 20 by 16in
Private collection

 Egg tempera, gold leaf and gesso on wood panel with a kovcheg
35 x 29 cm (13 3/4 x 11 1/2 in.)
Private collection

Christ carried by the angels is shown inside the mandorla representing the Heaven in the upper register of the icon. The lower register depicts the Holy Virgin standing along with the disciples of Christ and two angels, set against the hills of the Mount of Olives, representing the Earth.

Egg tempera and gesso on wood panel with a kovcheg and rubchik
63.7 x 50 cm. (25 x 20 in.)
Private collection

The saint depicted holding a sword in one hand and the city of Mozhaisk, as a symbol of his patronage, in the other. The central figure of Saint Nikolai surrounded by fourteen scenes from his life. 

Saint Nikolai of Mozhaisk, or Mikola Mozhaiski, is a Russian variation of the Saint Nikolaus traditions. According to the legend, during the 14th-century siege of Mozhaysk city by Mongols, the residents prayed to Saint Nicholas, who announced himself as a huge figure holding a sword in the right hand and the city of Mozhaisk on the palm of the left hand. After seeing such a frightful vision the Mongols retreated. The grateful citizen erected a wooden monument to Saint Nicholas as he was seen during his announcement. The motive became a popular plot for Russian icons and high-reliefs.

According to folklore researcher, Hele Bome,[ Saint Nikolai of Mozhaisk is remembered in an icon sculpted in high-relief. This icon became most popular as a protective image, especially favored by Setu peoples, who sometimes venerate the icon with loaves of bread or cream, and who often seek blessings on their agriculture and cattle-raising. However the main role attributed to this figure is as a protector of the crops from the cold.

Some texts specifically describe the saint as a warrior-hero (e.g., a white-bearded man who stands on top of the monastery wall and can't be touched by enemy fire). The icon stands with a sword raised, which figures in the initial legends as Nikolai appeared to during a war time, but which is explained in other stories as the Saint threatening to strike an old woman who did not believe in him. More

Egg tempera, gold leaf and gesso on wood panel with a kovcheg
 95.8 x 78.8 cm (37 1/2 x 31 in.)
Private collection

Also known as the Fatherhood, the composition features enthroned God the Father with Christ Child and Holy Spirit.

Trinity. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity holds that God is three consubstantial persons, or hypostases—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit—as "one God in three Divine Persons". The three persons are distinct, yet are one "substance, essence or nature". In this context, a "nature" is what one is, whereas a "person" is who one is.

According to this central mystery of most Christian faiths, there is only one God in three persons: while distinct from one another in their relations of origin (as the Fourth Lateran Council declared, "it is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds") and in their relations with one another, they are stated to be one in all else, co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial, and each is God, whole and entire". More

Egg tempera, gold leaf and gesso on wood panel with a kovcheg
51.2 x 41 cm (20 1/8 x 16 1/4 in.)
Private collection

The Saint depicted holding a scroll in one hand and gesturing with the other, surrounded by four scenes from his life in elaborate architectural settings.

Venerable Macarius of the Yellow Water Lake and the Unzha, the Miracle Worker (1349–1444)  is a Russian Orthodox saint. He was a elder of the church who led an ascetic life and was famed for his healing powers. In 1434, founded the Yellow Water Monastery of the Trinity on the left bank of the River Volga, not far from the Yellow Water Lake. In 1439, the cloister was burnt to the ground by Tatars from Kazan, who led Macarius off into captivity. He was released on the condition that he made no attempts to rebuild his monastery on the Yellow Water Lake. Macarius continued to preach the Gospel to the local non-Russian population of Tatars and Mordvins, baptising them in the lake. He then moved to the forests near Kostroma, where he founded a new Monastery of the Trinity on the River Unzha. St Macarius died at the monastery in 1444. The holy relics of the saint were recovered in 1671. More

Egg tempera, oil and gesso on a wood panel
33 x 27.3 cm (13 x 10 3/4 in.)
Private collection

Paul the Apostle and Venerable Sergius of Radonezh depicted alongside with the Mother and her Child. The oklad features chased and repousse floral motif with an intricate thin border, applied sunburst haloes and four enamel appliques. The oklad marked DD in Cyrillic, with dated assayer`s mark.

Donskaya Mother of God This Icon, known as the Donskaya Mother of God, is very similar to the Vladimir Mother of God. However there are several small differences in the composition. The most obvious difference is they way in which the child sits in his mother's arms. Other notable differences are that his legs are also bare, he holds a scroll with his left hand, and with his right hand gestures with three fingers. A more subtle difference is that the Mother of God is depicted as feeling motherly tenderness and a quiet joy; in the Vladimir icons she is shown with a sorrowful, almost grieving, expression.

The iconography of the Donskaya Mother of God dates back to the late 14th Century. It is believed that the original icon, which now hangs in the Tretyakov Gallery, was painted by the renowned iconographer Theophanes the Greek. In the late 14th Century Theophanes traveled first to Novgorod and then to Moscow, where he painted the iconostasis for the Annunciation Cathedral. He is also known as being a teacher and mentor to Andrei Rublev. 
According to legend the icon of the Donskaya Mother of God was given to Prince Dmitry Donskoy, Prince of Moscow, by the Cossacks who settled along the River Don. Prince Dmitry took this icon into the Battle of Kulikovo where he fought and defeated the Tartars in the Plain of Kulikovo at the River Don. The belief in this legend was such that many Princes and Tsars, including Ivan the Terrible, carried this icon into battle and many iconographers traveled to the Donskoy Monastery where the icon hung in order to create their own versions of the miracle working icon. More

Saint Paul, the Apostle

Paul the Apostle is shown wearing a cloak completely draping his left hand and leaving open his right hand. Very untypical is the saint’s gesture – he is portrayed showing the inclined Gospel book, which is put almost on the corner, instead of supporting it.

Saint Paul, the Apostle, original name Saul of Tarsus (born 4 bc?, Tarsus in Cilicia [now in Turkey]—died c. ad 62–64, Rome [Italy]) one of the leaders of the first generation of Christians, often considered to be the second most important person in the history of Christianity. In his own day, although he was a major figure within the very small Christian movement, he also had many enemies and detractors, and his contemporaries probably did not accord him as much respect as they gave Peter and James. Paul was compelled to struggle, therefore, to establish his own worth and authority. His surviving letters, however, have had enormous influence on subsequent Christianity and secure his place as one of the greatest religious leaders of all time. More

Yaroslavl, Russia
Sergius of Radonezh with scenes from his life, 17th century
 176 × 113 cm
Yaroslavl Historical and Architectural Museum Preserve, 

Venerable Sergius of Radonezh (Russian: 14 May 1314 – 25 September 1392), was one of the foremost Russian saints and mystics. Born to a noble family near Rostov, he was christened Bartholomew. At the age of fifteen, he fled with his family to Radonezh, near Moscow, to escape a campaign against Rostov by the rulers of Moscow. As their wealth was all but wiped out, the family became peasant farmers until 1335 when, after the death of his parents, he and his brother Stephen became hermits at Makovka. Stephen left to become a monk, and Sergius received a tonsure from a local abbot. Increasingly well-known as a profoundly spiritual figure in the Russian wilderness, he attracted followers and eventually organized them into a community that became the famed Holy Trinity Monastery. He was ordained at Pereyaslav Zalesky. Serving as abbot, he thus restored the great monastic tradition which had been destroyed some time before during the Mongol invasions of Russia. Sergius was soon joined by Stephen, who opposed his stern cenobitical regulations and caused Sergius to leave the community and to become a hermit again. As his departure brought swift decline to the monastery, Sergius was asked to return by none other than Alexis, metropolitan of Moscow. As he was respected by virtually every segment of society, Sergius was consulted by Prince flirnitry Donskoi of Moscow encouraging the ruler to embark upon the campaign against the Mongols which culminated in the triumphant Battle of Kulikovo (1380), thus breaking the Mongol domination of Russia, Sergius sought to build upon this victory by promoting peace among the ever-feuding Russian princes and building monasteries; in all he founded around forty monastic communities. In 1378 he declined the office of Metropolitan, resigning his abbacy in 1392 and dying six months later on September 25, Canonized in 1449, he is venerated as the fore-most saint in Russian history. More

Egg tempera, gold leaf and gesso on wood panel
36 x 29.5 cm (14 1/8 x 11 5/8 in.)
Private collection

The Holy Virgin depicted gently touching faces with Christ Child and flanked by two select saints on the borders.

The Feodorovskaya Icon of the Mother of God, also known as Our Lady of Saint Theodore and the Black Virgin Mary of Russia is the patron icon of the Romanov family and one of the most venerated icons in the Upper Volga region.

Since the Feodorovskaya follows the same Byzantine Eleusa (Tender Mercy) type as the Theotokos of Vladimir, pious legends declared it a copy of that famous image, allegedly executed by Saint Luke. In Greek, Theotokos means "God-bearer". It is believed that, before the Mongol invasion of Rus, the icon was kept in a monastery near the town of Gorodets-on-the-Volga. After the Mongols sacked and burnt the town, the icon disappeared and was given up for lost.

Several months later, Prince Vasily of Kostroma wandered while hunting in a forest. He saw an icon concealed among fir branches. When he reached out to touch it, the icon mysteriously rose up in the air.

The frightened and awestruck prince informed the citizens of Kostroma about the miracle he had witnessed and returned with a crowd of people to the forest. They fell prostrate before the icon and prayed to the Theotokos. Then the icon was transported to the city and placed in the Assumption Cathedral. A conflagration destroyed the cathedral and most of its icons soon thereafter, but the Feodorovskaya was found intact on the third day after the fire.

The people of Gorodets, situated considerably to the east of Kostroma, learned about the miracle of its survival of the fire. They recognized the newly found icon as theirs and demanded it back. After a long litigation, the people of Kostroma had a copy of the icon painted and sent back to Gorodets.

 Icon of St. Theodore Stratelates

Church legends differ as to why the icon was named after Saint Theodore Stratelates , not to be confused with Theodore Tyro. One explanation is that, during Vasily's absence in the forest, several people claimed to have seen the apparition of Saint Theodore walking the streets of Kostroma with an icon of the Theotokos in his hands

Theodore Stratelates is a martyr and Warrior Saint venerated with the title Great-martyr in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches.

There is much confusion between him and St. Theodore of Amasea and they were in fact probably the same person], whose legends later diverged into two separate traditions.

Theodore came from the city of Euchaita in Asia Minor. He killed a giant serpent living on a precipice in the outskirts of Euchaita. The serpent had terrorized the countryside. Theodore armed himself with a sword and vanquished it. According to some of the legends, because of his bravery, Theodore was appointed military-commander (stratelates) in the city of Heraclea Pontica, during the time the emperor Licinius (307–324) began a fierce persecution of Christians. Theodore himself invited Licinius to Heraclea, having promised to offer a sacrifice to the pagan gods. He requested that all the gold and silver statues of the gods which they had in Heraclea be gathered up at his house. Theodore then smashed them into pieces which he then distributed to the poor.

 Ibrahim al-Nasekh (Ibrahim the Scribe)
Agios Theodoros Pistratilatees (Saint Theodore Stratelates), 18th century
The saint saving the two sons of the widow in Euchaita (Euchetos), a town in Pontus, Asia Minor, from a raging dragon.

Theodore was arrested and subjected to torture and crucified. His servant Varos (also venerated as a saint), witnessed this and recorded it. In the morning the imperial soldiers found him alive and unharmed. Not wanting to flee a martyr's death, Theodore voluntarily gave himself over again into the hands of Licinius, and was beheaded by the sword. This occurred on 8 February 319, on a Saturday, at the third hour of the day. More

Egg tempera, gold leaf, and gesso on wood panel
44 x 37.5 cm (17 1/4 x 14 3/4 in.)
Private collection

the Archangel depicted as a warlord and an angel of the Apocalypse on a winged horse, defeating Satan at the ruins of hell. With Jesus Emmanuel appearing at the heavenly altar in the upper left. 

ARCHANGEL MICHAEL, is an archangel in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran traditions, he is called "Saint Michael the Archangel" and "Saint Michael". In the Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox traditions, he is called "Taxiarch Archangel Michael" or simply "Archangel Michael".

Michael is mentioned three times in the Book of Daniel, once as a "great prince who stands up for the children of your people". The idea that Michael was the advocate of the Jews became so prevalent that, in spite of the rabbinical prohibition against appealing to angels as intermediaries between God and his people, Michael came to occupy a certain place in the Jewish liturgy.

In the New Testament Michael leads God's armies against Satan's forces in the Book of Revelation, where during the war in heaven he defeats Satan. In the Epistle of Jude Michael is specifically referred to as "the archangel Michael". Christian sanctuaries to Michael appeared in the 4th century, when he was first seen as a healing angel, and then over time as a protector and the leader of the army of God against the forces of evil. By the 6th century, devotions to Archangel Michael were widespread both in the Eastern and Western Churches. Over time, teachings on Michael began to vary among Christian denominations. More

Egg tempera, gold leaf and gesso on wood panel
31.5 x 26.5 cm (12 3/8 x 10 3/8 in.)
Private collection

Depicted as Queen of Heaven, the Holy Virgin is receiving a crown from Jesus Christ and God the Father, surrounded by seven seraphims. The Holy Spirit soars above them all in the heavenly light.

The Coronation of the Virgin or Coronation of Mary is a subject in Christian art, especially popular in Italy in the 13th to 15th centuries. Christ, sometimes accompanied by God the Father and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, places a crown on the head of Mary as Queen of Heaven. In early versions the setting is a Heaven imagined as an earthly court, staffed by saints and angels; in later versions Heaven is more often seen as in the sky, with the figures seated on clouds. The subject is also notable as one where the whole Christian Trinity is often shown together, sometimes in unusual ways. Although crowned Virgins may be seen in Orthodox Christian icons, the coronation by the deity is not. Mary is sometimes shown, in both Eastern and Western Christian art, being crowned by one or two angels, but this is considered a different subject. More

Acknowledgement: Shapiro

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