Russian Icons

Savior Enthroned

The Savior Enthroned This icon, from the church of St. John Chrysostom of the Cowsheds in Yaroslavl, was part of the local tier of the church's principal iconostasis. Evidence suggests that the icon was painted at the request of a family of land-owners, the Nezhdanovsky. One of the major extant icons by Simeon Spiridonov Kholmogorets (1642-1694), the work was almost certainly signed at the foot of Christ's throne (three incised lines remain), but the signature has been lost over time. Other losses include the silver halos that at one time surrounded the heads of Christ and Mary. The icon reveals the artist's typical palette: a few simple colors -- in this case vermilion, dark green, and raspberry -- form the figures and details of the main scene and more complex coloration, those in the border scenes. Spiridonov worked in a number of towns and cities in Northern and Central Russia including Kholmogory, Yaroslavl, Moscow, and at the Solovetsky Monastery. In 1666 and again in 1677, the artist received invitations to serve as court icon painter. The icon of "Christ Pantokrator Enthroned" was one of the most special of the artist's projects. It not only shows exceptional technique but also combines images intended for veneration with those of a specific event, the sparing of the city of Yaroslavl from the epidemic of 1654. This was also the year in which the Church of St. John Chrysostom was consecrated. The icon's inscriptions and iconography, including the seven border scenes depicting miracles, pose Christ as a healer. The central image of Christ, his halo inscribed with a cross, corresponds to the iconography of Christ in Glory. However, the illumination of the contours of Christ's body with color differentiates this icon from traditional images of Christ in Glory. The light comes from the cloud which doubles as a halo. No rays of light are shown, only its effects. Since devoted worshippers might examine a depiction carefully and question its details, the artist made sure that his rendition was understood as Christ in Glory by inscribing verses 31-34 of Matthew 25 on the book that Christ displays. The twenty eight border scenes depict not only traditional scenes from the life of Christ, but also some rarely seen themes such as the Prophecy of St. John the Baptist, the Temptation of Christ, and Christ and the Adulteress. Other common subjects are rendered in unusual ways: the Four Evangelists are represented together as they are in early Byzantine work, and the Mother of God is seated in the Nativity, a pose more in accord with Western rather than Russian iconography.
Copyright ©. George Mitrevski.