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19th C. Russian Icon - Archangel Michael & Anysia

Eastern Europe, Russia, ca. 19th century CE. A touching icon finely delineated in egg tempera, gold leaf, and gesso on linen and wood, depicting the winged Archangel Michael on the left holding his sword and its decorative sheath, dressed as the general of heaven's angels and protector of the Church Militant, donning regal vestments in blue and yellow with a flowing red cape, and the martyr Anysia (also Anissia) of Thessaloniki on the right holding a Russian golden cross. God above is floating upon finely delineated clouds in the celestial realm. All is presented in rich jewel tones against a buttercup yellow and sage green ground, with a red-lined golden ochre border. Size: 10.25" W x 12.25" H (26 cm x 31.1 cm)

Anysia was born in Thessaloniki during the era of the Diocletian-Maximilian persecutions (284-305 CE). One day as Anysia was heading to church she met a Roman soldier who was a pagan. Against her will, this soldier arrested her and dragged her off to a temple to worship to the sun god. Anysia however refused, confessing her faith to Jesus Christ who she proclaimed to be the one, true God. Outraged by this, the soldier abused her further and began blaspheming the name of God. Anysia spat in his face and covered her face with a veil. The soldier - angered and embarrassed - ripped the veil off of her face to look her in the eyes and impaled her with his sword, immediately killing her.

As Chief Commander of the Heavenly hosts, Saint Michael bravely challenged the Devil. Satan, after all, was Michael's opponent in the battle for Heaven. The figures' gestures and motion are characteristically dramatic. Archangels are understood to be helpers and allies who offer dedicated protection through life's trials and travails. Their names usually end in the suffix "ael" or "iel" meaning “Shining One” in Hebrew, e.g. Miguel, Rafael, Gabriel, Ariel, Ezekiel, Barachiel, Uriel, etc.

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. 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."

Condition: Losses to borders as shown. Small hole between Mary and Gabriel and nail inserted near Gabriel's sheath. Painting shows areas of wear and loss with nice areas of craquelure.

Provenance: ex-Francis & Lilly Robicsek collection, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

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