Temple Gallery

Established 1959

Old Testament Trinity - exhibited at the Temple Gallery, specialists in Russian icons

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XX012. Old Testament Trinity

Northern Russia
Circa 1600
31.1 x 24.7 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

Provenance:  1. Richard Lannoy

2. Temple Gallery, Summer 2007, No. 7

£3,500 [Sold]Click here to convert price to USD or EUR

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Three angels representing the Holy Trinity are seated around a table with three chalices. They are each dressed in a chiton and a himation and are holding white sceptres. The angel in the middle points to the centre chalice and looks to the angel on his right who is shown gazing down in contemplation. The angel on the right of the panel also looks at the angel directly opposite him. In the background we see a temple (left-hand side), a tree (centre), and a mountainous landscape (right-hand side) all of which are symbols of paradise.

The narrative is taken from the biblical story of three angels visiting Abraham at Mamre (Gen. 18:1-8), a passage that early Christian writers interpreted as an Old Testament manifestation of the Holy Trinity.

Our icon is based on the composition of Andrei Rublyov's famous image of the Trinity painted in 1408, originally for the church at Sergeyev (formerly Zagorsk) housing the shrine of St. Sergius. Prior to Rublyov painters depicted the narrative elements of the story and included the figures of Abraham, Sarah and their servant’s sacrifice of the calf. Rublyov's composition dispensed with these details and reduced the design to its most basic elements thereby giving priority to its mystical and symbolic meaning. Thereafter his icon was the key prototype on which later painters modelled their work.[1] The angel in the centre is usually understood to represent Christ, the angel on the left-hand (our left) side of the panel God the Father, and the angel on the right-side of the panel the Holy Spirit.

The current object was most likely created in Northern Russia around 1600. A similar icon that is currently in the Netherlands, created during this period in Northern Russia (fig. a), exhibits similar qualities, including the expressive brushstrokes, composition, and soft, round faces of the angels.

Fig. a. Old Testament Trinity, Northern Russia, c. 1600, published in: Ikonen: Uit Noord-Rusland, Uit Nederlands Bezit, (Zwolle, Provinciaal Overijssels Museum, 1992), p. 30

1. For a study of this subject see Gabriel Bunge. The Rublev Trinity, (New York, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007)