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19th C. Russian Icon of St. Tryphon & St. Procopius

Eastern Europe, Russia, ca. 19th century CE. Expertly delineated in egg tempera, gold leaf, and faux enamelwork, an icon depicting Saint Tryphon of Vyatka (c. 1546-1612) on the left and on the right, Procopius of Vyatka (d. 1627). Tryphon of Vyatka (Trifon Viatskii), born in the area of Archangelsk, was a Russian saint and abbot, famous for evangelizing the Ostyaks, who established a monastery in Vyatka and healed Procopius (Prokopii) at one point. Procopius was one of the "fools for Christ" - a term that derives from the statements of Paul, "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise" (I Corinthians I:27) - who at age twenty went to Khlynov (also called Viatka) and took on feats of foolishness. Size: 12" W x 14" H (30.5 cm x 35.6 cm)

St. Procopius of Vyatka would feign extreme madness in order to shock people and shake them out from their complacency provoking them to subscribe to faith; as a 'fool' he endured hunger, cold, and mockery. This crazed state is demonstrated by his light clothing and bare feet (inappropriate given Russia's climate). In this image, St. Procopius of Vyatka intercedes with the Mother of God and Christ depicted above on behalf of his city pictured in the background. Admittedly confusing, the city has had three names: Viatka until 1457, Khlinov until 1780, then back to Viatka until 1934, finally Kirov which is still its name today. Procopius (Prokopii) lived during the late 16th to early 17th century, when it was Khilinov; however, it is referred to as Viatskii here - perhaps a reference to the general region. A calligraphic text panel identifies each saint above his head. Adding to the composition is a faux enamel floral border of sky blue, navy blue, mint green, forest green, white, and wine red hues as well as a meticulously delineated abstract strapwork pattern above the landscape in the background.

According to curator Jeanne Marie Warzeski, "In Eastern Orthodoxy, one form of the ascetic Christian life is called foolishness for the sake of Christ. While a 'conventional' ascetic renounces the profane world to devote his life to God unconditionally through chastity, poverty, and humility, the fool for Christ’s sake rejects the mandatory practices of monastic seclusion and instead chooses to live in the secular world. A Holy Fool acts intentionally foolish in the eyes of men. He or she often goes around half-naked, is homeless, speaks in riddles, is believed to be clairvoyant and a prophet, and may occasionally be disruptive and challenging to the point of seeming immoral (though always to make a point)." Scholar Alfredo Tradigo writes that these individuals engaged in a "special form of asceticism, which fought spiritual pride by seeking the scorn of one's fellow man." (Icons and Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church, J. Paul Getty Museum: 2006, p. 351) Tradigo contextualizes his discussions with the following text written by a 16th century traveler to Russia, "Strange men who walk along the roads, hair scattered in the wind, iron chains around their necks, wearing no other clothing than a piece of sackcloth around the hips . . ."

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: Loss to lower left corner and a few areas of the periphery. Surface wear with paint, enamel, and gilt losses as shown. Small loss above text panel identifying St. Procopius and tiny nick to the right of St. Tryphon's shoulder.

Provenance: Ex-Francis and Lilly Robicsek Collection, Charlotte, North Carolina USA

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