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19th C. Russian Orthodox Enameled Brass Three Bar Cross

Eastern Europe, Russia, ca. 19th century CE. A beautiful enameled brass three bar cross, the focus of the iconography being the Crucified Christ, with additional scenes in low relief surrounding him creating the ornate effect embraced by Orthodox religious art. The three-bar cross is the most symbolic and popular form in the Orthodox Church. The uppermost bar represents the banner reading "This is the King of the Jews" from Luke 23:38 that was nailed to the top of Christ's cross; the lowest bar represents the foot rest on Christ's cross. This is depicted as slanted, because it is believed that, in Christ's final moments, he kicked it out of place. The right side points upward to Heaven, and the left side points downward to Hell. Size: 6.875" W x 13.5" H (17.5 cm x 34.3 cm)

Here, the uppermost bar contains a scene of heaven with God the Father flanked by a pair of bowing winged angels; the lower bar shows a scene on earth with turreted edifices. At the bottom of the cross is a skull which represents the skull of Adam, and below his feet are four letters meaning, "The place of the skull became Paradise," to remind us that Adam lost Paradise through forbidden knowledge, and Christ will return us to it. Dark, navy blue and white enamel add to the aesthetic. The verso is also incised with a lengthy inscription and an image of a three-bar cross.

Condition: Expected surface wear with losses to enamel as shown. Nice patina.

Provenance: private Orange County, California, USA collection

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