Temple Gallery

Established 1959

Saint Nil Stolbenski - exhibited at the Temple Gallery, specialists in Russian icons

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WW012. Saint Nil Stolbenskii

Second half of the 17th century
32 x 26.5 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

£2,750Click here to convert price to USD or EUR

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Saint Nil Stolbenskii stands on the right of the panel with his hands raised in supplication and gazing at Christ, who blesses the saint from a heavenly opening separated by celestial clouds. The saint is dressed in the classical garments of an Orthodox monastic figure.

Though the icon lacks an inscription, the figure's facial features of rounded beard and short hair suggest that he is Nil Stolbenskii, the well-known monastic from Northern Russia, where he founded a monastic centre on the island of Stolbny in the middle of Lake Seliger. As a young man Nil was a pupil of St. Sabbas of Pskov and spent ten years in the Krypetsk Monastery, later founding a hermitage on the bank of Cheremkha river where for the next twelve years he devoted his life entirely to prayer. His reputation as a holy man attracted crowds of pilgrims and so to avoid unwanted attention he moved to Stolbny Island where he lived for the last 26 years of his life in total silence. He is reputed to have slept standing upright supported by crutches. This strict asceticism is depicted in the well-known statues of Nil Stolbenskii where he is supported by his crutches and clothed in the monastic vestment known as the Great Schema (e.g. fig. c). Stolbny island was most visited pilgrimage site in Russia before the Revolution of 1917, and these statues - along with icons of Nil - were sold to the pilgrims for private devotion and prayer.[1]

The style of the current version points to the 17th century. Other icons with a similar iconographic subject and style from the same period can be seen below (see fig's a and b).

Fig. a. Saint Nil Stolbenskii, Russian, second half of the 17th century, published in Peter Mikliss de Dolega, Ikone und Mysterium, (Koln, Freundkreiss St Panteleon, 1996), p. 173

Fig. b. Saint Alexander Nevksi, Russian, late 17th century, published in, Peter Mikliss de Dolega, Ikone und Mysterium, (Koln, Freundkreiss St Panteleon, 1996), p. 191

Fig. c. Statue of Saint Nil Stolbenskii, Tver, 19th century, Sergiev-Posad Museum, Russia


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