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19th C. Russian Icon - St. Simon, a Holy Fool

Eastern Europe, Russia, ca. 19th century CE. Traditionally painted in egg tempera and gold leaf on wood, a very fine icon depicting St. Simon, one of the "fools for Christ"- a term that derives from the statements of Paul, "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise" (I Corinthians I:27). St. Simon would feign extreme madness in order to shock people and shake them out from their complacency provoking them to subscribe to faith. This crazed state is demonstrated by his light clothing and bare feet (inappropriate given Russia's climate). He intercedes with the Mother of God and Christ depicted in the upper left corner on behalf of his native town of Yurievits on the Volga. The golden text in the upper right corner identifies him: "An image of the holy blessed Simon, a fool for Christ's sake, the miracle-worker". The red ovals flanking his legs feature liturgical texts about him (more specifically, Kontakion and the Troparion: hymns written about the saint chanted during services on his feast day), and at the bottom is a lengthy account of his life on a rectangular black panel - all painstakingly handwritten/painted in gold leaf. Size: 12.5" W x 10.5" H (31.8 cm x 26.7 cm)

According to curator Jeanne Marie Warzeski, "In Eastern Orthodoxy, one form of the ascetic Christian life is called foolishness for the sake of Christ. While a 'conventional' ascetic renounces the profane world to devote his life to God unconditionally through chastity, poverty, and humility, the fool for Christ

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