Temple Gallery

Established 1959

Double triptych - exhibited at the Temple Gallery, specialists in Russian icons

[ Click on the above image for a full screen view ]

XX010. Double Triptych with various Feasts and Saints

Probably Mount Athos
Late 16th century
22.7 x 26 cm (closed)Click here to convert metric size to imperial

Click here to convert price to USD or EUR

[ Click on any image for a larger view ]   Switch to full-screen mode

Mounted on a pedestal with two pairs of doors each painted on both sides.

In the centre of the panel within the depressed triple-arch (with double moulding) is the Dormition, with the Annunciation at the top above the arch. On the insides of the inner wings (which fit into the triple-arch when closed) we have the Transfiguration (left), and the Ascension (right). On the external sides of the same wings are the Nativity Left), and the Baptism (right). On the insides of the left outer wing are the Crucifixion (top), saints (bottom), and on the inside of the right outer wings are the Descent into Hell and Fathers of the Church such as John Chrysostom. When completely closed, the external panels of the outer wings show two rows of saints, including Spyridon and Nicholas (top-left), along with four martyr-saints.

The style and composition of our icon follows the Byzantine tradition but was perhaps created by a Cretan artist from the 16th century, probably on Mount Athos. As Maria Vassilaki points out, Cretan artists were working on Mount Athos in the post-Byzantine period:

As is well-known, Cretan painting had reached Mt Athos not only through commissions but more importantly through the presence of native Cretan painters who were commissioned by major Athonite monasteries to execute fresco decorations and icons, such as the case of Theophanes the Cretan active on Mt Athos from 1535 till at least 1545/46.[1]

Direct connections between our object and Mount Athos are found in comparing our icon with panels attributed to this highly significant monastic centre in the British Museum (fig. a), the Museum of the City of Athens (fig. b), and the Benaki Museum, all of which are attributed to the late 16th or 17th century.[2] Fig. a, dated to the end of the 16th century, is thematically closest to our icon (as it too features the Dormition in the centre), and it is also the closest stylistically. Yet all of these works have the same depressed triple-arch in the centre, which, as Vassilaki highlights is a ‘peculiar shape’ suggesting that all the objects were created in the same place.[3] As Vassilaki states: ‘From the evidence of the Benaki Myseum triptych, which is iconographically connected with Mount Athos (though stylistically different from the rest)… Mount Athos cannot be excluded as the place where all these triptychs were made.’ She then continues by suggesting that their ‘Cretan iconography and style can easily be explained’ by the fact of ‘Cretan painters’ being ‘active on Mount Athos at the time’.[4] In view of the similarities between our icon and these other versions – especially the Dormition triptych in the British Museum - Mount Athos can also be understood as the probable origin of the current object, and with a similar date of the late 16th century.

Fig. a. Triptych with the Dormition and Saints, probably Mount Athos, end of the 16th century, British Museum, London, UK

Fig. b. Triptych with Deesis and various Saints, Mount Athos, end of the 16th c. Museum of the City of Athens, Athens, Greece

Fig. c. Triptych with Virgin Portaitissa and Saints Paul Xiropotaminos and Eleutherios, Mount Athos, 17th century, Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece

1. (accessed: 16/10/2018; see further Vassilaki’s notes for the same icon in: David Buckton [ed.], Byzantium: Treasures of Byzantine Art and Culture, (London, British Museum Press, 1994), pp. 224-225
2. We would like to thank Maria Vassilaki for bringing these references to our attention.
3. In Buckton [ed.], Byzantium: Treasures of Byzantine Art and Culture, p. 224
4. Ibid, pp. 224-225