Temple Gallery

Established 1959

Appearance of the Virgin to Saint Sergius - exhibited at the Temple Gallery, specialists in Russian icons

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SS020. The Appearance of the Virgin to Saint Sergius

Russian, (Central Russia. Moscow?)
17th century
30 x 24.4 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

Provenance:  Private collection, Netherlands

£5,800Click here to convert price to USD or EUR

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According to tradition, the Mother of God, accompanied by Saint Peter and Saint John the Evangelist, appeared miraculously to Saint Sergius while he was at prayer in his cell. His closest disciple, Saint Micah who accompanies him, witnessed the event. The Virgin prepares to hand a crozier to Sergius symbolizing her protection of the monastery he founded. M. Fyodoseyeva, describing a 17th century icon of the same subject, cites the 1834 Chronicle of Saint Nikon which refers to the tradition that the event took place during Advent in 1379.[1] Saint Sergius is especially associated with the icon of the Trinity, the famous icon by Rublyov today in the State Tretyakov Gallery, which was painted for the church that contains Sergius' relics - thus we see, in the lunette at the top, the Three Angels that appeared to Abraham in the image known as the Old Testament Trinity.

St Sergius is known in Russian history as a mystic and for his political actions in helping Moscow to rise against the Mongol rule. Sergius had a supernatural vision of Muscovite victory at the battle of Kulikovo before it took place, which encouraged Prince Dimitri. Because he was able to secure harmony in Russia at a time of chaos, an icon of the 'Appearance of the Virgin to Saint Sergius 'always accompanied the Russian armies' when going into battle.[2]

Our version has some similarities with a piece dated to around 1700, especially the composition and architectural features (fig. a). The white lines that highlight the facades of the architecture echo the technique developed by the famous Stroganov School of Moscow, suggesting an influence. Yet the brushstrokes in the current example are less rigid and the toning on the faces is softer, creating a more restrained impression. The use of pink and earthly colours adds to this atmosphere of silence. The artist, in this regard, is clearly looking back to the classical style of medieval icon painting.

Fig. a. Appearance of the Virgin to Saint Sergius, Russian, ca. 1700. Temple Gallery, Christmas 2007, No: X036

1. Yevgenia Petrova, ed. Russian Monasteries, Art and Traditions, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg, 1997. p. 146
2. Steven Fanning, Mystics of the Christian Tradition, p. 47

Detail Images