Temple Gallery

Established 1959

Blessed Silence - exhibited at the Temple Gallery, specialists in Russian icons

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XX024. The Saviour of the Blessed Silence

19th century
31.2 x 26.2 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

Provenance:  1. Richard Lannoy collection

2. Temple Gallery 'Icons at Easter' March 1999, No. 30

£2,500 [Sold]Click here to convert price to USD or EUR

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An angelic figure is shown in half-length and in a frontal position gazing directly at the viewer. The angel is wearing classical Byzantine royal vestments, including a golden jewel encrusted crown. A seraph and three cherubim – in miniature form - hover over the body. While around the head we see a cruciform halo along with an eight-pointed pink star. The feathers of the wings are depicted in bright colours (including ochre, blue, and green) in a rainbow-like pattern. The figure crosses his hands over his chest and is holding a Byzantine cross and an open scroll. The Slavic inscription at the top of the panel translates as: ‘The Saviour of the Blessed Silence’ (Spas Blagoe Molchanie) – the title of the iconography.

There is little information on how to interpret this mysterious iconography. It first appears in Russia in the 15th century. The iconography of the Blessed Silence is thematically connected with icons of Sophia the Wisdom of God – in which Christ is again represented as an angel - and became particularly popular in Russian icon-painting ‘from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries’ especially with the ‘Old Believers’.[1]

The bright use of colours, especially the rainbow-like wings, recalls the well-known description of the angel in Revelation 10:1: ‘Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.’

1. See Alexander Grishin’s catalogue notes for an icon of the Blessed Silence in Gordon Morrison, Alexander Grishin, and Sophie Matthiesson, [eds.], Eikon: Icons of the Orthodox Christian World, (Ballarat, Art Gallery of Ballarat, 2014), pp. 114-117, p. 114