Lot 166D: 19th C. Russian Icon - Synaxaria Calendar for May

Artemis Gallery

March 15, 2018
Louisville, CO, US

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Description: Eastern Europe, Russia, ca. 19th century CE. Finely painted in egg tempera and gold leaf on gesso and linen atop wood, a beautiful calendar icon representing the month of May. Known as a synaxaria (monthly) as opposed to a menologia (annual) calendar, more than thirty varied scenes derive from miniatures painted in manuscript collection representing portraits of different saints and holy feast days commemorated during May, with each labeled in Cyrillic calligraphy. Occasionally the artist will elect to depict saints who are celebrated on the same day together, and other times only the first saint celebrated is depicted. Most often the figures are depicted as standing; however, martyred saints are generally shown at the moment of their death. In addition to weekly or monthly icons, diptychs covering four months and more complex panels that include the full cycle of twelve months were created. Size: 11.75" W x 13.875" H (29.8 cm x 35.2 cm).

Poetically described by scholar Alfredo Tradigo, "Rather like musical scores, these icons are veritable calendars of sainthood." (Tradigo, "Icons and Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church" Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2006, p. 24.) Special examples like this one traditionally would have been displayed in churches upon special lecterns. Calendar icons portray the feast days of the saints in chronological order, usually alternating with movable liturgical feasts, as dictated by the Orthodox calendar, which begins on the first of September. Calendar icons may be referred to as menologia (annual) or synaxaria (monthly), and their many panels are modeled on miniatures featured in manuscript collections of saints' lives.

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 such they are truly "windows into heaven."

Provenance: ex-Francis & Lilly Robicsek collection, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

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Condition Report: Expected surface wear commensurate with age, fading and chips to iconography, small losses and abrasions to pigmentation and peripheries, with light fraying to exposed linen layer underneath. Minor pock marks and discoloration on verso along with twin metal screws and suspension wire.
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