The

Temple Gallery

Established 1959

The Virgin of the Unfading Rose with Saints - exhibited at the Temple Gallery, specialists in Russian icons

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UU005. The Virgin of the Unfading Rose with Saints

Balkans
18th-19th century
32.6 x 38.8 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

£1,250Click here to convert price to USD or EUR

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Triptychs painted on panels of Beech or Alder were common in many Slavic countries across the Balkans and especially in Bulgaria, where this example was created. The research of Dr Yuri Pyatnitsky at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg reveals that icons of this type were created between the 17th and 19th centuries in Bulgaria. These works are painted in a style that Pyatnitsky calls 'folk primitivism', and have a warm, natural feel with rich, earth colours, bold forms and simple design.[1] Because of the manner in which the garments have been painted in the current example, we can date this triptych to around the 18th-19th century.

The central panel of this triptych is known as 'The Virgin of the Unfading Rose', an iconography that is of Greek origin but which became popular in Bulgaria in the 18th century.[2] Mary is clothed in the ornamented dress of a noble woman and wears a crown. In most variants she holds a rose in her right hand, but here she gestures towards Christ, who stands next to her clothed in the garments of a High Priest or emperor. He is holding a scroll in his left hand and an orb in his right, which symbolises his spiritual power over the world. According to Pyatnitsky this iconography was 'inspired by the words of the Akathistos Hymn written by St Joseph the Hymnographer (816-886)', which includes relevant verses, such as: 'Rejoice, only one who gave birth to the rose that does not wither...'[3]

A similar icon with the same subject can be seen at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (see fig. a), while another comparable icon (fig. b) was in a previous Temple Gallery exhibition.


Fig. a. Virgin of the Unfading Rose, Bulgarian, 19th century. State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia

Fig. b. Virgin of the Unfading Rose, Bulgarian, 18th century, Temple Gallery, 2009, ZO31




Footnotes:-
1. Y. Pyatnitsky in Athos: Monastic Life on the Holy Mountain, (Helsinki, Helsinki City Art Museum, 2005), p. 238
2. Ibid. p. 258
3. Ibid. p. 258

Detail Images