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19th C.Oval Russian Icon w/ Silver Oklad - St. Mark

Eastern Europe, Russia, ca. 19th century CE. A finely painted religious icon on wood and fitted with a stunning silver oklad (also oclad), depicting the evangelist Saint Mark whose symbol is the lion - featured in repousse on the oklad to the left of Saint Mark's halo. Mark is identified with the lion, because his Gospel begins with a figure of John the Baptist, known as the man of the desert. Saint Mark was regarded as a superb chronicler and witness, quite versed in Latin, who accompanied the apostle Paul on his long trip to Rome, acting as his interpreter and secretary. Size: 8.25" W x 11" H (21 cm x 27.9 cm)

Although we can only see Mark’s head and torso, one can imagine the evangelist seated in his scriptorium, surrounded by shelves filled with volumes and scrolls, parchments, quills, erasing knives, and inks. Images of the evangelists derived from miniatures of illuminated Gospel books and Gospel lectionaries showing them at work in their scriptoria. These portrayals were oftentimes painted on the outside of the royal doors. Here of course, his likeness appears through openings in the ovoid silver oklad. The stunning silver oklad adds a three-dimensional quality to the image - the halo raised and with a decorative border, St. Mark's cloak seemingly of billowing fabrics with cascading folds.

The oklad or riza, sometimes referred to as a revetment in English, is a metal cover 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.

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: Painted icon is in excellent condition. Oklad shows expected tarnish and some scratches. There is an intentionally cut slot on the lower end of the wooden icon, presumably for fitting into a larger composition.

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

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