Lot 162: 18th C. Russian Icon - Harrowing of Hell

Artemis Gallery

March 15, 2018
Louisville, CO, US

More About this Item

Description: Eastern Europe, Russia, ca. 1750 to 1780 CE. A beautiful, densely iconographic wooden icon with rich painted details and gilt. In the center is a depiction of the Resurrection and the Anastasis (the Harrowing of Hell); surrounding it are twelve scenes from the Old and New Testament. Each scene is labeled around the edges in neat Church Slavonic. These scenes describe the dodekaorton, the twelve great feasts of the liturgical year. The painting of the panel is of very high quality, and the complex imagery indicates that the patron who commissioned the piece and the artist who painted it both had a strong interest in and an understanding of theology. The surface of the icon is slightly curved, with two grooves on the back where it once had backslats. Size: 21.05" W x 27.45" H (53.5 cm x 69.7 cm)

This icon most likely was kept in someone's home. According to Jeanne Marie Warzeski, scholar and curator of the North Carolina Museum of History's "Windows into Heaven" exhibition, "In the early Byzantine Empire, the home became the primary base for the development of icon veneration. Throughout the ensuing centuries, icons continued to receive honor in homes and churches. To this day, many Orthodox Christians create for prayer and meditation in their home a krasny ugol, or "beautiful corner," where family icons are placed. Guests entering a house customarily honor the icons in the corner by crossing themselves before the objects. An oil lamp is set near the icons and is lit daily, according to Orthodox tradition."

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. Icons are not worshiped, but are instead venerated for their ability to focus the power of an individual's prayer to God. As a focus for prayers and meditation for believers, icons serve as "windows into heaven."

Provenance: private Ventura County, California, USA collection

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Condition Report: Surface wear commensurate with age, including small chips, losses to glaze, and rough edges to the exposed wood on the sides. Fading/darkening to the pigment, but the painting is still in very nice condition, with no serious losses and all subjects and details very clear. Both backslats are lost.
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