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Mid-18th C. Russian Wood Icon St. John the Baptist

Eastern Europe, Russia, ca. 1740 to 1760 CE. Finely painted in egg tempera and gold leaf on wood, a large icon depicting St. John the Baptist holding a scroll and Jesus as the Lamb of God in a chalice as opposed to other depictions of John the Baptist holding his severed head on a platter or as an angel in the desert. This image suggests the bread of the Eucharist - called Lamb (amnos), and the words spoken by John the Baptist by the river Jordan where he baptised his disciples, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." St. John the Baptist wears his traditional camel hair tunic with a green himation over it. A large gilded halo encircles his visage which is framed by a wavy coiffure cascading past his beard and shoulders. Size: 17.625" L x 14.375" W (44.8 cm x 36.5 cm)

Also referred to as the Angel of the Desert (because he was a preacher and hermit in the southern desert of Judea), the forerunner of Christ, the last of the Old Testament prophets, and the first saint, John the Baptist is one of the most popular and venerated figures in Orthodox hagiography. Depicted next to Christ and his mother, he also occupies a coveted position in the Deesis tier of the iconostasis.

Condition: Painting shows expected age wear with slight losses to pigment and gilding. Nice craquelure as well. Verso shows some age cracks, back slats intact.

Provenance: private Ventura County, California, USA collection; acquired prior to 1990

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