Temple Gallery

Established 1959

Resurrection and Feasts - exhibited at the Temple Gallery, specialists in Russian icons

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TT005. The Resurrection and Feasts

19th century
Panel: 53 x 45 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

Provenance:  Collection the late Norman St John Stevas

£3,500Click here to convert price to USD or EUR

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The combining of the Descent into Hell iconography with the Resurrection became popular in Russian icon painting during the 18th and 19th centuries. In this version the main images are surrounded by feasts from the life of Christ and the Virgin, as well as various other scriptural narratives. An interesting - and somewhat unique - detail in this icon is the merging of the Old Testament Trinity and the New Testament Trinity at the centre of the top row (see detail below). This echoes, visually and conceptually, the conflation of the main theme, the Descent Into Hell and the Resurrection, which is directly beneath; for both connect the higher and lower worlds into a spiritualized unity. In the borders of the panel are depictions of the four evangelists writing their gospels.

Detail showing the Old and New Testament scenes

The Descent into Hell is known in Russian as Bogoyavlenie i voskresinie, in Greek as 'Anastasis' and in Old English as the 'Harrowing of Hell'. It is celebrated on Holy Saturday and is the Orthodox Church’s greatest feast. It depicts Christ descending into hell to rescue Adam and Eve from tombs, together with kings David and Solomon (identifiable by their royal crowns), St. John the Baptist and other Old Testament figures. The image anticipates the general resurrection of mankind at the Last Judgement [1]. In the top right corner we can see the opening of the Heavenly Gates and the righteous entering the Garden of Paradise. In the bottom left corner of the image we see the Mouth of Hell with sinners being cast into its abyss from which Christ rescues Adam and Eve.

1. For a study of the 'Descent into Hell' from the Orthodox perspective, see: Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev, Christ the Conqueror of Hell: The Descent into Hades from the Orthodox Perspective, (New York, St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2009)

Detail Images