Lot 8A: 18th C. Russian Wood Icon, Virgin of the Burning Bush

Artemis Gallery

March 23, 2017
Louisville, CO, US

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Description: Eastern Europe, Russia, ca. 1760 to 1780 CE. Alternatively called the Virgin of the Burnish Bush or the Virgin of the Unburnt Bush, the iconographically rich composition of this icon, finely delineated in egg tempera and gold leaf on wood, commemorates the miracle that Moses witnessed in the Old Testament dramatically described in the book of Exodus when God calls upon Moses from a bush that "was burning, yet it was not consumed" on Mount Horeb. The Church Fathers interpreted this as an image of Mary giving birth to Christ (represented by the divine fire) while miraculously remaining a virgin. Furthermore, a 14th century manuscript housed in the Solovki Monastery in Russia describes how Mary has the ability to send lightning, frost, and earthquakes to earth to punish the impious; according to scholars, this source also served as inspiration for the Virgin of the Burnish Bush iconography which in the 14th century spread from Sinai to Russia. Size: 14.125" L x 12.125" W (35.9 cm x 30.8 cm)

This icon depicts the burning bush symbolically with two overlapping diamonds - the blue diamond/rhombus representing the bush, the red diamond/rhombus representing the fiery flames that do not burn it. Within the red points are the symbols of the four evangelists: lion, ox, eagle, and man; within the blue points are angels of the Apocalypse. The corners feature visions of Moses, Isaiah, Ezekial, and Jacob - prophesies concerning the Mother of God: the burning bush of Moses, the seraph who purifies Moses' lips, the closed door of the Temple in Ezekiel (symbolizing Mary's virginity), and Jacob's Ladder. At the center of it all is the Theotokos Mother of God. Old Cyrillic passages are written in the borders and beside various elements to identify holy figures and narrate various episodes.

Provenance: Ex-private Ventura County, CA collection, acquired prior to 1990.

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Condition Report: Back slats intact; some white pigment on back slats and surround. Some minor losses to pigment and gilding on icon, but imagery still quite vivid. Nice craquelure in areas.
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