14 Icons, Small Byzantine & Russian Icons, from the 4th – 15th Century with footnotes, #15

A SILVER-MOUNTED STEATITE ICON, Byzantine

THE HODIGITRIA MOTHER OF GOD, 10th-12th century

Carved in half-length and supporting a Child on her left hip

3.5 x 2.9 cm.

Soapstone

Private Collection

A Hodegetria is an iconographic depiction of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) holding the Child Jesus at her side while pointing to Him as the source of salvation for humankind. In the Western Church this type of icon is sometimes called Our Lady of the Way.

The most venerated icon of the Hodegetria type, regarded as the original, was displayed in the Monastery of the Panaghia Hodegetria in Constantinople, which was built specially to contain it. Unlike most later copies it showed the Theotokos standing full-length. It was said to have been brought back from the Holy Land by Eudocia, the Empress of Theodosius II (408–450), and to have been painted by Saint Luke. The icon was double-sided, with a crucifixion on the other side, and was “perhaps the most prominent cult object in Byzantium”.

The original icon has probably now been lost, although various traditions claim that it was carried to Russia or Italy. There are a great number of copies of the image, including many of the most venerated of Russian icons, which have themselves acquired their own status and tradition of copying. More A Hodegetria

A STEATITE ICON, Byzantine

 ST. NICHOLAS OF MYRA , 10th-12th century

His name incised in the background

Soapstone

H. 3,3 cm.

Private Collection

Saint Nicholas (15 March 270 – 6 December 343), also called Nikolaos of Myra, was a historic 4th-century Christian saint and Greek Bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor. Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was common for early Christian saints, and his legendary habit of secret gift-giving gave rise to the traditional model of Santa Claus through Sinterklaas.

The historical Saint Nicholas, as known from strict history: He was born at Patara, Lycia in Asia Minor. In his youth he made a pilgrimage to Egypt and the Palestine area. Shortly after his return he became Bishop of Myra and was later cast into prison during the persecution of Diocletian. He was released after the accession of Constantine and was present at the Council of Nicaea.

He was buried in his church at Myra, and by the 6th century his shrine there had become well-known. In 1087 Italian sailors or merchants stole his alleged remains from Myra and took them to Bari, Italy; this removal greatly increased the saint’s popularity in Europe, and Bari became one of the most crowded of all pilgrimage centres. Nicholas’s relics remain enshrined in the 11th-century basilica of San Nicola at Bari. More of Saint Nicholas

A STEATITE ICON,  Post-Byzantine

ST. NICHOLAS OF MYRA, 15th century 

The saint carved in low relief shown frontally bust-length

Soapstone

3.9 x 3.5 cm. 

Private Collection

A SILVER-MOUNTED GLASS CAMEO, Byzantine, Constantinople or Venice

ST. THEODORE KILLING THE DRAGON, 12th/13th century

Blue pâte de verre

3,6 x 2,9 cm

Private Collection

Theodore Stratelates is a martyr and Warrior Saint venerated with the title Great-martyr in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches.

There is much confusion between him and St. Theodore of Amasea and they were in fact probably the same person, whose legends later diverged into two separate traditions.

Theodore came from the city of Euchaita in Asia Minor. He killed a giant serpent living on a precipice in the outskirts of Euchaita. The serpent had terrorized the countryside. Theodore armed himself with a sword and vanquished it. According to some of the legends, because of his bravery, Theodore was appointed military-commander (stratelates) in the city of Heraclea Pontica, during the time the emperor Licinius (307–324) began a fierce persecution of Christians. Theodore himself invited Licinius to Heraclea, having promised to offer a sacrifice to the pagan gods. He requested that all the gold and silver statues of the gods which they had in Heraclea be gathered up at his house. Theodore then smashed them into pieces which he then distributed to the poor.

Theodore was arrested and subjected to torture and crucified. His servant Varos (also venerated as a saint), witnessed this and recorded it. In the morning the imperial soldiers found him alive and unharmed. Not wanting to flee a martyr’s death, Theodore voluntarily gave himself over again into the hands of Licinius, and was beheaded by the sword. This occurred on 8 February 319, on a Saturday, at the third hour of the day. More Theodore Stratelates

 

A HEMATITE INTAGLIO, Byzantine,

SOLOMON, 4th/5th century 

Incised showing Solomon on horseback killing the Antichrist

Soapstone

2.7 x 2.4 cm.

Private Collection

Solomon was, according to the Bible, a fabulously wealthy and wise king of Israel and a son of David, the previous king of Israel. The conventional dates of Solomon’s reign are circa 970 to 931 BC, normally given in alignment with the dates of David’s reign. He is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, which would break apart into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah shortly after his death. Following the split, his patrilineal descendants ruled over Judah alone.

According to the Talmud, Solomon is one of the 48 prophets. In the Quran, he is considered a major prophet, and Muslims generally refer to him by the Arabic variant Sulayman.

The Hebrew Bible credits him as the builder of the First Temple in Jerusalem. It portrays him as great in wisdom, wealth, and power beyond any of the previous kings of the country, but ultimately as a human king who sinned. His sins included idolatry, marrying foreign women, and ultimately turning away from Yahweh, and led to the kingdom’s being torn in two during the reign of his son Rehoboam. Solomon is the subject of many other later references and legends, most notably in the 1st-century apocryphal work known as the Testament of Solomon. In later years, in mostly non-biblical circles, Solomon also came to be known as a magician and an exorcist, with numerous amulets and medallion seals dating from the Hellenistic period invoking his name. More Solomon

A STEATITE ICON, Byzantine, 

ST. THEODORE Byzantine, 10th-12th century

The saint shown frontally half-length holding a spear. 

Soapstone

2.2 x 2.1 cm

Private Collection

A STEATITE ICON, Byzantine, 

ST. THEODORE, 12th century

The name of the saint incised in the background.

Soapstone

4.4 x 3.7 cm

Private Collection

A DOUBLE-SIDED HORN MEDALLION, Russian

THE MOTHER OF GOD AND ST. BASIL THE GREAT, early 16th century 

6.4 x 5.2 cm.

Private Collection

From antiquity, Mary has been called “Theotokos”, or “God-Bearer” (Mother of God). The word in Greek is “Theotokos”. The term was used as part of the popular piety of the early first millennium church. It is used throughout the Eastern Church’s Liturgy, both Orthodox and Catholic. It lies at the heart of the Latin Rite’s deep Marian piety and devotion. This title was a response to early threats to ‘orthodoxy’, the preservation of authentic Christian teaching. A pronouncement of an early Church Council, The Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D., insisted “If anyone does not confess that God is truly Emmanuel, and that on this account the holy virgin is the “Theotokos” (for according to the flesh she gave birth to the word of God become flesh by birth) let him be anathema.” (The Council of Ephesus, 431 AD). More Mother of God

Basil of Caesarea, also called Saint Basil the Great (329 or 330 – January 1 or 2, 379), was the Greek bishop of Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia, Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). He was an influential theologian who supported the Nicene Creed and opposed the heresies of the early Christian church, fighting against both Arianism and the followers of Apollinaris of Laodicea. His ability to balance his theological convictions with his political connections made Basil a powerful advocate for the Nicene position.

In addition to his work as a theologian, Basil was known for his care of the poor and underprivileged. Basil established guidelines for monastic life which focus on community life, liturgical prayer, and manual labour. He is remembered as a father of communal monasticism in Eastern Christianity. He is considered a saint by the traditions of both Eastern and Western Christianity. More Basil of Caesarea

A DOUBLE-SIDED HORN MEDALLION, Russian

THE BAPTISM, THE CRUCIFIXION AND TWO SAINTS, early 16th century

8.8 x 5.9 cm.

Private Collection

Baptism is a Christian sacrament of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally. The canonical Gospels report that Jesus was baptized —a historical event to which a high degree of certainty can be assigned. Baptism has been called a holy sacrament and an ordinance of Jesus Christ. In some denominations, baptism is also called christening, but for others the word “christening” is reserved for the baptism of infants. More Baptism

The crucifixion of Jesus occurred in 1st century Judea, most probably between the years 30 and 33 AD. Jesus’ crucifixion is described in the four canonical gospels, referred to in the New Testament epistles, attested to by other ancient sources, and is established as a historical event confirmed by non-Christian sources, although, among historians, there is no consensus on the precise details of what exactly occurred. More on The crucifixion

A DOUBLE-SIDED HORN MEDALLION, Russian

THE LAST SUPPER AND THE DORMITION OF THE MOTHER OF GOD, circa 1500 

Carved in relief. Restored. 

Diam. 6.5 cm.

Private Collection

The Last Supper is the final meal that, in the Gospel accounts, Jesus shared with his Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The Last Supper provides the scriptural basis for the Eucharist, also known as “Holy Communion” or “The Lord’s Supper”.

The four canonical Gospels all state that the Last Supper took place towards the end of the week, after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and that Jesus and his Apostles shared a meal shortly before Jesus was crucified at the end of that week. During the meal Jesus predicts his betrayal by one of the Apostles present, and foretells that before the next morning, Peter will deny knowing him.

The three Synoptic Gospels and the First Epistle to the Corinthians include the account of the institution of the Eucharist in which Jesus takes bread, breaks it and gives it to the Apostles, saying: “This is my body which is given for you”. The Gospel of John does not include this episode, but tells of Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles, giving the new commandment “to love one another as I have loved you”, and has a detailed farewell discourse by Jesus, calling the Apostles who follow his teachings “friends and not servants”, as he prepares them for his departure.

Scholars have looked to the Last Supper as the source of early Christian Eucharist traditions. Others see the account of the Last Supper as derived from 1st-century eucharistic practice as described by Paul in the mid-50s. More on The Last Supper

The Dormition of the Mother of God is a Great Feast of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches which commemorates the “falling asleep” or death of Mary the Theotokos (“Mother of God”), and her bodily resurrection before being taken up into heaven. More The Dormition

 

A DOUBLE-SIDED HORN MEDALLION, Russian

THE NATIVITY AND THE CRUCIFIXION OF CHRIST, circa 1500

Engraved

5.1 x 5.3 cm.

Private Collection

The nativity of Jesus or birth of Jesus is described in the gospels of Luke and Matthew. The two accounts agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the time of Herod the Great to a betrothed virgin whose name was Mary. There are, however, major differences. Matthew has no census, annunciation to the shepherds or presentation in the Temple, implies that Jesus’s parents’ home is Bethlehem, and has him born in a house there, and has an unnamed angel appear to Joseph to announce the birth. In Luke there are no Magi, no flight into Egypt, or Massacre of the Innocents, Joseph is a resident of Nazareth, the birth appears to take place in an inn instead of the family home, and the angel (named as Gabriel) announces the coming birth to Mary. While it is possible that Matthew’s account might be based on Luke or Luke’s on Matthew, the majority of scholars conclude that the two are independent of each other.

In Christian theology the nativity marks the incarnation of Jesus as the second Adam, in fulfillment of the divine will of God, undoing the damage caused by the fall of the first man, Adam. The artistic depiction of the nativity has been a major subject for Christian artists since the 4th century. Since the 13th century, the nativity scene has emphasized the humility of Jesus and promoted a more tender image of him, as a major turning point from the early “Lord and Master” image, affecting the basic approaches of Christian pastoral ministry. More on The nativity

The crucifixion of Jesus, see above

SILVER-GILT PENDANT ICON,  Russian

THE SMOLENSKAYA MOTHER OF GOD, 16th century

Silver, cast and gilt. Set with cabochons

Greek inscription ‘

6.1 x 5 cm.

Private Collection

The Mother of God Smolenskaya Icon is where the Mother of God is depicted from the waist up holding the Christ child. Christ is portrayed in an erect frontal pose, blessing with his right hand and holding a closed scroll in his left. More Mother of God Smolenskaya

SMALL ICON, Russian

THE PROTECTING VEIL OF THE MOTHER OF GOD, circa 1500

Carved wood, metal mount decorated with filigree and set with semi-precious stones

5.8 x 4.6 cm

Private Collection

In the tenth century, in the church of the Blachernae in Constantinople, there was a festival service. It was at a time of difficulty for the Byzantine empire because of the invading Slavs. At this festal service, on the first of October, the feast of the holy hymnographer Romanos, according to the Life of St. Andrew the Fool-for-Christ, who’s a canonized saint in the Orthodox tradition, he was in the church also with a friend of his, Epiphanios, a friend of his who’s also numbered among the saints.

While they were praying, Andrew had this vision of Christ’s mother, Mary, praying in the church and covering the church with her veil and protecting the people. With her were John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, and, in fact, all of the ranks of the prophets and apostles and bishops and saints were seen. The revelation was that the Theotokos was interceding and praying with all of the saints for the Church on earth. More on the veil

METAL SPHRAGIS (SEAL), Russian

THE DORMITION OF THE MOTHER OF GOD, circa 1900

Before baking, each prosphoron is stamped with this special seal

12.4 cm high, Diam. 8.5 cm

Private Collection

In Orthodox Christianity, prosphoron has come to mean specifically the bread offered at the Divine Liturgy (Eucharist).

Acknowledgement: Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen Düsseldorf, and others

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Author: zaidangallery

I search Art History for Beautiful works that may, or may not, have a secondary or unexpected story to tell. I then write short summaries that grow from my research. Art work is so much more when its secrets are exposed

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