Temple Gallery

Established 1959

Prophet Elijah - exhibited at the Temple Gallery, specialists in Russian icons

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VV036. The Prophet Elijah

Circa 1700
31.2 x 26.5 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

£3,800Click here to convert price to USD or EUR

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The Old Testament prophet Elijah is shown in half-length, with the facial features of his classical iconography: long, grey hair that streams into four strands, and with a serious, ascetic expression on his face. His eyes have a slight sideway gaze, suggesting he is in deep contemplation. In his left hand he holds an open scroll, while his right hand is shown in a gesture of oration. He is wearing a 'garment of hair' - Elijah is described as wearing this type of garment in scripture (2 Kings 1:8) - the cloak that hangs on his shoulders. This garment is associated with biblical ascetic hermits and the later desert saints. It is also implied that the cloak symbolises his spiritual power, as he passes it to his disciple Elisha when he departs to heaven in a fiery chariot, enabling Elisha to receive a 'double portion of his spirit' (2 Kings 2:7-14). Elijah, along with the prediluvian patriarch Enoch, both entered heaven without experiencing death. He is often associated with John the Baptist, and had a major influence on early Christian monasticism.[1]

Though the current example was painted in the 17th century, it is clearly drawing on prototypical works from an earlier period, especially works now in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow (see fig's a and b). As with these earlier examples, our Elijah has a very simple but effective aesthetic. Fig. b, with its slightly tilted face and serious gaze definitely resonates with the current object.

Fig. a. The Prophet Elijah, Novgorod, late 14th - early 15th century, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

Fig. b. The Prophet Elijah, Novgorod, 15th century, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

1. Especially the Carmelite Monasteries around Mount Carmel where Elijah lived in a cave (1 Kings 19). He has also influenced individuals, such as Abba Onophrius the Anchorite in living the life of a solitary. See, Michael Bar-Asher Siegal, Early Christian Monastic Literature & the Babylonian Talmud,(Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013), p.133-169

Detail Images