with Saints Alexandra and Agatha"Home
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A Russian Icon in the National Gallery
by George Galavaris
| 5 | 6
*This article is
offered to Maria and Popi as a birthday present.
I should like to express my thanks to Professor Victor Grebenschikov,
Carleton University, Ottawa, for helping with the reading of the
inscriptions and for his suggestions on questions of Russian
palaeography; and to Mr Nikolai Schelechoff: iconographer, Montreal,
for deciphering the inscription over the saint to the left of
Christ. The kindnesses of Dr Josepha Weitzmann-Fiedler,
Princeton, and of my colleagues at McGill University, Dr Rosemarie
Bergmann and Dr Thomas Glen, are gratefully acknowledged. Sincere
thanks are also due to Mr J. McGregor Grant and to the conservation
department and Dr Myron Laskin, Jr., Research Curator of European Art
at the National Gallery, for facilitating in every way my work on
1 Normally the term basma
should be used for the metal cover of
the frame. If the cover is extended to the contours of the
represented figures the applicable term is risa. When only the faces
and hands are left uncovered, one speaks of an oklad. In practice
this strict usage has not been followed. In this article the term
is being used for the metal sheet that covers the frame and
part of the background of the panel. For the use of terms see H. P.
Gerhard, Welt der Ikonen
(3rd ed.; Recklinghausen: A. Bongers,
1970), p. 215; an English translation of this book has appeared
under the title The World of the Icons
(New York: Harper and Row,
2 Examples of metal crowns decorated with precious or semiprecious
stones exist in all major collections. We may cite another one here,
a seventeenth-century icon of the Mother of God of Vladimir
attributed to central Russia,
now in Munich (see Festival der Ikonen, exhibition catalogue
[Munich: Galerie Ilas Neufert, 1975], no. 15).
3 For the development and technique of icons see G. Galavaris, Icons from the Elvehjem Center
(Madison: University of Wisconsin,
1973), pp. 1-5 with bibliography. A useful drawing illustrating
the technique is found in K. Onasch, Icônes
(Geneva: R. Kister,
1961, also English and German editions), p. 33. For the use of
canvas in general see some important remarks in Gerhard, Welt der
Ikonen, p. 213.
4 For examples demonstrating similar methods see V. I. Antonova,
Drevnerrusskoe iskusstvo sobranii Pavla Korina
1966), figs 49, 52, 58, 93. (Hereafter cited as Korina.)
5 See Galavaris, op. cit., pp. 27, 28, no. 19.
6 S. Eustratiades, Agiologion tes orthodoxou ekklesias
Apostolike Diakonia, n.d.), pp. 23, 24; E. Kirschbaum SJ et al
eds, Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie
(Rome, Freiburg, Basel,
Vienna: Herder, 1968), vol. v ( 1973), cols 89-90. (Hereafter cited
7 One can see the same head-covering, for instance, in images of St
Paraskeve (H. Skrobucha, Ikonen, Haus der Kunst,
exhibition catalogue [Munich: Haus der Kunst, 1969], no.188).
Queen-saints wear this "veil" under their crown; see, for
example, the empress Helena in a seventeenth-century icon reproduced
in colour in Jubil-äumsaustellung 1974, Ikonen
Ilas Neufert, 1974), no. 39. For the way saints are represented in
Russian art see H. Skrobucha, "Zur Darstellung russischer
Heiliger in der Ikonenmalerei," Kirche im Osten, Studien zur
osteuropäischen Kirchengeschichte und Kirchenkunde, vol. IV
(1964), pp. 9-32.
8 See Lcl, vol. VI (1974), cols 366-373, esp. col. 372.
9 See frescoes in the monastery of St George at Harlau, Church of
Humor, and Church of St Nicholas popauti, in
I. D. Stefãnescu, L'évolution de la peinture religieuse en
Bucovine et en Moldavie (Paris: P. Geuthner, 1928, 1929), vol. I, pp. 15, 23, pl.
XLIX; idem, L'art byzantin et l'art
Lombard en Transylvanie (Paris : P. Geuthner, 1938), p. 87.
10 Cf. A. Hatzinikolaou, "Heilige," Reallexikon zur byzantinischen
Kunst, ed. by K. Wessel, M. Restle (Stuttgart: A.
Hiersemann, 1966-), vol. II (1971), cols 1084-1090.
11 The examples are cited here: a fourteenth-century icon of Mary
and Child in the centre with martyrs on the borders, Alexandra is
grouped with Catherine of Alexandria and Onouphrios; a
mid-sixteenth-century icon of Mary and Child in centre, Alexandra
and Catherine on the sides; an icon from the end of the sixteenth
century depicting St George fighting the Dragon and the Martyrdom of
Alexandra; a sixteenth- or seventeenth-century icon with St George
and Alexandra. See V. I. Antonova and N. E. Mneva, Gosudarstvennaia
Tret' iakoskaia gallereia. Katalog drevenerusskoi zhivopisi XI-nachala
XVIIIV.V., 2 vols (Moscow: "Iskusstvo," 1963), vol. I, p.
259, no.218; vol. II, p. 170, no. 566, p. 202, no. 614, p. 219,
no. 640. (Hereafter cited as Antonova and Mneva.)
12 Other examples: an early sixteenth-century hagiographical icon
with the life of Saint George now in the Rublyov Museum of Old
Russian Art, Moscow, includes a small scene depicting Alexandra and
St George; for a good colour repr. see V. N. Lazarev, Moscow School
of Icon Painting, in Russian and English (Moscow: "Iskusstvo,"
1971), pIs 83, 84. In a late nineteenth-century icon, Alexandra,
placed on the side, is related to the venerable liarion; repr. in Ikonen, Frühjahrskatalog 1973 (Munich: Galerie lias Neufert, 1973),
no.290. We may add two seventeenth-century Bulgarian icons now in
Sofia (only one has been published) with Saint George and scenes of
his life which include Alexandra (see Kunstschätze in Bulgarischen
Museen und Klöstern, exhibition catalogue [Villa Hügel-Essen: 1964],
nos 320, 322).
13 Eustratiades, op. cit., p. 5.
14 Hatzinikolaou, op. cit., cols 1034-1093, esp. col. 1088 with
earlier relevant bibliography.
15 G. and M. Sotiriou, Icônes du Mont Sinai, vol. I (plates), vol.
Il (text), in Greek with French summary (Athens: Institut Français
d'Athènes, no.102, 1956, 1958), pp. 117, 124, pls 126, 144.
16 See Lcl, vol. v (1974), cols 44-48.
17 See Antonova and Mneva, vol. II, pp. 113, 114, no. 502, p. 259,
18 M. Chatzidakis et al, Les icônes dans les collections Suisses (Bern:
Benteli, 1968), no. 188.
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