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18th C. Russian Icon - Mother of God of Kazan

$1,795.00
Eastern Europe, Russia, Moscow School, ca. 1780 to 1800 century CE. Beautifully painted in egg tempera and gold leaf on wood, this icon presents the Virgin Hodegetria ("She who shows the way"), the composition depicting the Mother of God holding the Christ child in one arm, as he makes a blessing gesture. Adorning Mary's vestments on her shoulders and head is a golden triple, star-shaped cross, which is an ancient Syrian symbol of her virginity - before, during, and following the birth. Since the artist only depicted Mary's head and shoulders, the viewer is invited to gaze upon Christ following the subtle inclination of her visage, particularly given those expressive eyes. The Christ Child is characteristically depicted in a rigid, vertical pose - wearing regal vestments. Gold leaf highlights accentuate the Virgin and Child's haloes and elaborate vestments. This use of golden hues, the serene and regal countenance of Mary's face, as well as the pantomime-like gestures reference classic Byzantine splendor. Size: 16" L x 13.75" W (40.6 cm x 34.9 cm)

Icons were some of the first religious artworks brought to Russia from Byzantium. These sacred pictures of the Greek Orthodox church reached a high point in the Byzantine era, however, the Russians brought their own style to the art of the icon. Icons were initially created for use in churches and processions. In time they became smaller and were used increasingly within households. To this day they remain an important form of visual culture in Russia's orthodox religious community.

Curator Jeanne Marie Warzeski, in her discussion of another Mother of God of Kazan icon stated, "Per tradition, the prototype of this icon came to Russia from Constantinople in the 1200s. It disappeared after the Tatars besieged the city of Kazan in 1438, and then was dug up in Kazan in 1579 by a girl named Matrona and her mother after the Virgin appeared repeatedly in the girl's dreams, telling her of the buried icon. The Kazan Mother of God later became Russia's symbol of national unity. The icon accompanied soldiers freeing Moscow from the Poles in 1612, and traveled with the troops fighting Napoleon in 1812." (accompanying catalogue for "Windows Into Heaven: Russian Icons from the Lilly and Francis Robicsek Collection of Religious Art" at the Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina (December 20, 2003 through February 22, 2004, p. 15)

A lovely example inspired by the icon of the Hodegetria that arrived in Constantinople from Jerusalem, where it was found in the 5th century by the sister-in-law of Emperor Theodosius II. According to Alfredo Tradigo's "Icons and Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church" (2006), "Hidden from the Iconoclasts in a wall at the Hodegon Monastery, it was later carried to the city walls when Constantinople lay under siege and became, under the Palaiologan dynasty (1261-1453), a major palladium protecting the capital. Copies made their way to Rome, the Near East, the Balkans, and Russia." (Tradigo, p. 169)

Condition: A stable age crack runs from top center to the Virgin's mantle just to the left of the triple star-shaped cross. Painting shows nice craquelure commensurate with age - only minor pigment loss. Back slats exist beneath the maroon velveteen back cover. Label on verso reads, "Image of Our Lady of Kazan Moscow School Second half of 18th." Another reads, "Virgin 'The Way Pointer' Moscow, 1780-1800 Cloth back purchased before 1990."

Provenance: private Ventura, California, USA collection acquired before 1990

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