Temple Gallery

Established 1959

Saint Nicholas and Vita - exhibited at the Temple Gallery, specialists in Russian icons

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XX017. St Nicholas and Scenes from His Life

Mid 20th century
54 x 44.5 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

£4,000Click here to convert price to USD or EUR

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Saint Nicholas is show in half-length in the centre of the panel. He is dressed in the vestments of a bishop. In his left hand he holds a closed Gospel and his right hand is raised in a gesture signifying oration or teaching. His eyes are directed slightly towards his left and not directly at the viewer. On either side of his head miniature depictions of Christ (our left) and the Virgin (our right) are shown, again in half length. Christ is blessing the saint and holding a crown out to him, while the Virgin is offering him an omophorion. Around the central image are ten scenes from the life of St Nicholas.

The iconographic prototype for this object is a 15th century panel from the island of Patmos in Greece (see fig. a). The painter of our work has followed this panel, which comes from the Monastery of the New Theologian in Patmos, closely, especially the vita scenes (although in the original there are 12 scenes rather than 10). Yet he has also improved on some features such as the face of Nicholas, which is much more intense and engaging than the Patmos version and recalls the work of Andreas Ritzos, the renowned Cretan painter of the second half the 15th century. Another interesting feature is the ship at the bottom of our panel that cuts into the body of Nicholas in the main image, giving the episode a vivaciousness not apparent in the prototype.

Fig. a, St Nicholas with Scenes from His Life, Patmos, 1430-1460, Monastery of the Theologian, Patmos, Greece

The type of wood that was used for the icon indicates that it was painted in the mid-20th century; yet the quality of the work suggests a very confident icon-painter proficient in classical Byzantine and post-Byzantine styles. The inspired changes and improvements to the 15th century prototype further attest to the skilful and intuitive hand of the artist.