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19th C. Oval Russian Icon, Theotokos of Unburnt Bush

$795.00
Eastern Europe, Russia, ca. early 19th century CE. An oval-shaped, iconographically rich icon, hand-painted in egg tempera and gold leaf on wood, alternatively called the Virgin of the Burnish Bush or the Virgin of the Unburnt Bush. This icon 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. Size: 6.625" W x 9.5" H (16.8 cm x 24.1 cm)

According to scholars, 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, and this source also served as inspiration for the Virgin of the Burnish Bush iconography which in the 14th century spread from Sinai to Russia. 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. Usually, this iconography is complemented by visions of Moses, Isaiah, Ezekial, and Jacob in the corners - 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. Perhaps this ovalo was once surrounded or set within a larger piece featuring this iconography. At the center of it all is an image of Mary of the Rock, the rock detached from the mountain, together with the ladder which unites heaven and earth, and Jesus. Old Cyrillic passages are written in the borders and beside various elements to identify holy figures and narrate various episodes.

Condition: Painting shows vivid imagery, saturated hues, and bright gold leaf. Minor losses to peripheries. Nice craquelure to areas. Intact back slats.

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

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