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19th C. Russian Icon - St. Basil the Great

Eastern Europe, Russia, ca. 19th century CE. An exquisite icon, skillfully delineated in egg tempera, gold leaf, and faux enamel on wood, depicting the Bishop Basil of Caesarea (370–379), also known as Saint Basil the Great. The holy bishop faces the viewer directly, his visage sensitively painted and hallowed with a golden halo further adorned with a white and cerulean blue enamel embellished border, wearing a sumptuous rose robe with a white collar trimmed in gold and adorned with golden appliques, holding a golden chalice with a soft blue cover. This is very unusual and may be an account of Basil's role in theological and liturgical developments; the Liturgy of Basil the Great is celebrated ten times during the ecclesiastical year. Basil was known for his work as a theologian as well as caring for the impoverished and underprivileged. The background is meticulously decorated with strapwork in gold leaf and the entire composition surrounded by a border embellished with sky blue and pastel pink faux enamel. Size: 12.25" W x 14.25" H (31.1 cm x 36.2 cm)

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 a focus for prayers and meditation for believers, icons serve as “windows into heaven.”

Condition: Surface wear with some losses to pigment, gold leaf, and faux enamel, though much remains and the image is quite vivid. Some repainting to blue cover of chalice.

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

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