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Lot 183a, Auction 12/6/2018: Exhibited 19th C. Russian Icon Christ Pantocrator, Kiot

Russia, ca. 19th century CE. Finely painted in egg tempera, gold leaf and enamel, an icon of Christ Pantokrator, Lord of the Universe, holding an orb symbolizing the universe rather than a holy Gospel in his left hand, the fingers of his right hand giving benediction, arranged to form the initials of Christ’s monogram, IC XC. The icon is set in a decorative glass-fronted wood kiot of a fanciful shape with an ornately carved and gilded liner of high relief grapevines dripping with clusters of the fruit of the vine. Size: 22.75" W x 26.75" H (57.8 cm x 67.9 cm)

The most accepted translation of Pantocrator is "Almighty" or "All Powerful" and the visage of Jesus certainly projects his omnipotence. This iconic depiction continues to be a central icon of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Christ gazes beyond the confines of the image, his visage finely delineated with graceful brushstrokes, a rendering aspiring to the naturalism sought in classical antiquity and the Renaissance, this in contrast to the large and relatively flat gilded nimbus and surrounding decorated arch and corners – resulting in a rich balance between naturalism and spiritual transfiguration.

The wood kiot is a case that protects the icon from smoke and dust as well as temperature and humidity variations to some extent; however, it also serves to enhance and add ornament to the icon. This example in particular with its decorative shape and ornate carved and gilded liner bestows the icon with glorious splendor.

Exhibited in "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) which presented highlights of one of the world's great artistic traditions through an extraordinary group of sixty-five 18th and 19th century Russian icons on loan from the private collection of Lilly and Francis Robicsek.

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. Some icons are encased in precious metal covers (oklads) adorned with pearls and semi-precious stones or glass-fronted wooden cases (kiots) like this example which is further embellished by the ornate gilt liner. 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."

The “Windows Into Heaven” exhibition profiled a magnificent chapter of Russian artistry, the embrace of the Russian Orthodox faith of religious icons during the Romanov centuries. The Russian religious faith was an offshoot of Byzantine Christianity, which in 1054 parted ways from Roman Catholicism. Icons were and continue to be religious images created for veneration. As a focus for prayers and meditation for believers, icons serve as “windows into heaven.”

Condition: Surface losses to pigment and gold leaf. Some stable cracks and losses to gilded insert. Losses and fissures to back of kiot as shown.

Provenance: Ex-Lilly and Francis Robicsek Collection of Religious Art, Charlotte, NC; exhibited at Mint Museum of Art "Windows Into Heaven", Charlotte, North Carolina (December 20, 2003 through February 22, 2004)

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