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19th C. Russian Icon & Gilded Silver Oklad - Christ

Russia, ca. late 19th century CE. Hand painted in egg tempera on wood with a gilt silver oclad cover (riza or oklad) delineated in repousse, chasing, and enamel, a Christ Pantocrator icon presenting Christ delivering a blessing and holding an open book of Gospels, the halo beautifully enameled in cloissons with flowers, circular motifs, and letters that translate to "He Who Is" - the enamels in bright turquoise, green, white, pink, cobalt blue, lemon yellow, and ruby red hues, the holy book with a red initial letter and otherwise black lettering on a white ground, the surrounding oklad struck with a Christogram for the name Jesus comprised of Greek letters IHC and XPC (Jesus Christ) flanking Christ, and other phrases in old Cyrillic lettering on the lower border as well as a maker's mark and hallmark. In addition, the upper folded edge of the oklad presents extensive inscriptions in Old Cyrillic. A fine example with an expertly painted image and a breathtaking ornamental oklad of 65-75% gold, 23-32% silver, 1-2% copper. Size: 12.5" L x 10.75" W (31.8 cm x 27.3 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 elaborately enameled gilded nimbus and surrounding borders featuring leaf and 'beaded' motifs– resulting in a rich balance between naturalism and spiritual transfiguration.

The oklad or riza, sometimes referred to as a revetment in English, is a metal cover (made of silver, bronze, or gilded silver as we see in this example) that not only protects the icon, but also serves to honor or venerate the figure(s) depicted on the icon. Oklads are usually adorned with repousse work and pierced to reveal elements of the underlying painting. This gilded silver oklad is complemented by the striking enamelwork adorning the Christ as Pantocrator image.

Condition: Expected losses to verso of wood icon as shown. Oklad in exceptional condition with nice warm age patina to folded peripheries. Panel cross members or back slats indicate that this icon dates prior to 1890 CE.

Provenance: private E. Tonsing collection, Ventura County, California, USA

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