Description: Russia, ca. late 19th century CE. A petite icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov, the most renowned 19th century saint of Russia. Seraphim was a healer and famous staret possessing the gift of cardiognosis (the ability to 'read' hearts). Ordained to the priesthood in 1793, he left at age 35 to become a hermit in the wilderness, as we see in this icon, kneeling in prayer donning a simple white tunic, birchbark clogs, and a cast bronze crucifix, holding a rosary for the Jesus Prayer around his wrist. Size: 4.375" W x 5.375" H (11.1 cm x 13.7 cm)
He blesses himself before his beloved icon of the Mother of God hanging in the tree above. At his feet are a hat, bread sack, gloves, and axe. The strongly modeled visage as well as the perspectival background suggest that the painter of this icon was very much influenced by Western art. Providing a nice contrast to this naturalism is the decorative border of faux enamelwork derived from Russian folk art on the borders. The borders are meticulously incised and painted to simulate enamel.
According to Jeanne Marie Warzeski, scholar and curator of the North Carolina Museum of History's "Windows into Heaven" exhibition, "Saint Seraphim (1759-1833) was the most renowned 19th century saint in Russia. At the age of 66 Seraphim began his career as a spiritual elder. Emerging from his trial of prayer and vigil, he turned to the suffering world as a healer, visionary and spiritual master. He was known as a hard but compassionate taskmaster who taught that every man could achieve Christian perfection in his ordinary life through the practice of prayer.
This icon most likely was kept in someones home. According to Warzeski, "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: Ex-Francis & Lilly Robicsek Collection, Charlotte, NC
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Condition Report: Losses to peripheries as shown. Expected surface wear with craquelure and losses to pigment and gold leaf as shown.
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