The Holy Trinity
This icon depicts the popular Gospel story of the visit of the three angels to Sarah and Abraham, whereupon they foretell the birth of the childless couple's first son, Isaac. The three angels, often conceived as a prefiguration of the Holy Trinity, gather around the table to share a meal, an act symbolically linked to the Last Supper. The Oak of Mamre, Abraham's house, and the mountain, all mentioned in the Gospel story, appear in the background.
The Holy Trinity appears fairly frequently in Russian icon paintings. In other compositions which feature the same theme, Sarah and Abraham are pictured in the lower forefront of the composition offering refreshment or praise to their heavenly visitors.
This particular composition illustrates the artist's fairly sophisticated knowledge of perspective. However, one notes that while Ushakov uses perspective to suggest depth in the background architecture and table setting, the figures remain flat.
Simon Ushakov (1626-1686) became a court painter at the early age of 21 and eventually came to head the Armory School. He is known not only for his icons, but also for his writings on art. "Words to the Lovers of Icon Painting" was written by Ushakov to encourage greater efforts at realism in the painting of icons. Though unresolved, "The Holy Trinity" perfectly reflects the direction in which his ideas were leading.