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19th C. Russian Virgin of the Kiss Mother of God Icon

Eastern Europe, Russia, ca. 19th century CE. A precious example of the Virgin of the Kiss Mother of God icon, a subject that derives from a prototype purportedly painted by Saint Luke at Ephesus, and believed to be the first icon depicting the Virgin Mary that Prince Vladimir brought to Kiev in 988, finely painted in egg tempera, gesso, and gold leaf on linen and wood. This half-length composition amplifies the palpable emotion of their loving gazes and by extension, the strong bond between mother and son. Departing from Italian icons in which Mary holds the Child to her breast with a single hand, in Russian icons like this example she embraces the baby Jesus with both hands. The figures in the margins are most likely patron saints of the church or individual who commissioned the icon. Size: 12" W x 14" H (30.5 cm x 35.6 cm)

Characteristic of a Mother of God icon, this piece presents the intensely expressive visages of Mary and baby Jesus, their pristine oval faces juxtaposed closely as the Child leans in to press his cheek against his mother’s - the Virgin’s protective, maternal gaze revealing a bittersweet awareness of her son’s fate, returned by Jesus’ sweet, trusting innocence.

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: This icon was made from two panels of wood which have separated a bit as shown, but the icon is still in generally stable condition. Nice craquelure to the composition commensurate with age. Losses to peripheries as shown; some touch up to the painted borders and lettering. Back slats present on verso; one has been re-glued. Inactive insect loss visible on verso. Still a strong example that with some restoration would be a treasure in any collection.

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

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