by Maria Koby
Russian Icons are known for a turbulent past. Periods of oblivion and repression – the mass destruction of icons during the Russian Revolution, the iconoclasm Bolsheviks confiscated church property in the 1920s and 30s, and as the result a huge number of icons were sold abroad. Then came periods of spiritual flights and artistic revelation, inspiring great movie directors such as Andrey Tarkovsky and Andrei Kanchalovsky to make a movie about Andrey Rublev, a 15th century medieval painter of icons and frescoes.
The contemporary Russian word ‘ikon’ was borrowed from German only in the 19th century, and in ancient times they used a more accurate equivalent of the Greek ‘eikon’ – ‘obraz’ (image), its purpose being to depict, through pigments on a flat surface, the likeness of a real prototype. At all times, the icon remained the image of the eternal and the value of the icon in Christianity was perceived in the sacred meaning. The Kievan Metropolitan Ilarion (mid-11th century) believed that a person contemplating an icon penetrates by his ‘interior gaze’ beyond the representation, and thus gains the possibility of spiritual intercourse with the prototype. The Church understands the icon as a sacred image of a higher, divine reality, as a visible reflection of the invisible. It is considered that to fully understand the icon, one needs to be able to read it, to understand its spiritual symbolism.
Henri Matisse became one of the first painters who appreciated the Russian icons’ great significance for the development of contemporary art.
Gene Shapiro Auction House is proud to have a great variety of icons, from 15th to 19th century.
Deisis Icon, Lot #2