Temple Gallery

Established 1959


BZ23. The Burning Bush
Russian, 17th century
Tempera on gesso on wood.
Panel: 16 x 15 x 1.6 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial
Condition: minor restoration
Provenance: private collection
Feast Day: September 4 (Feast day of the icon)
£1,800Click here to convert price to USD or EUR

Detail. Moses and the Burning Bush

Detail. The vision of Isaiah

Detail. The vision of Ezekiel

Detail. Jacob’s dream: wrestling with the angel and the ladder



This scene was introduced in Russia in the 16th century. In this period Moscow, which had recently declared itself the ‘Third Rome’ following the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, was a ferment of theological and iconographical activity, due to the presence of Greek scholars and theologians, and a number of new themes were introduced to the iconographical canon.1

In the spaces between the triangular points of the red and green star shapes are Angels and Archangels who represent divine powers. In the popular tradition the icon was regarded as a protector against fire. In the points of the red star are the symbols of the Four Evangelists. In the triangles and quadrants are Angels and Archangels. At the centre are the Virgin and Child with images Old Testament alluding to the Old Testament, among them Melchisidech. Inside the icon's raised border (kovcheg) are (upper left) Moses and the Burning Bush, (upper right) the Vision of Isaiah; (lower left) the Vision of Ezekiel and (lower right) Jacob and the Angel.

The 4th century Cappadocian Bishop St Gregory of Nyssa was the first theologian who saw in Moses' encounter with God at the Burning Bush a typology for the Mother of God. Early Byzantine icons showed a straightforward narrative: Moses removing his sandal on Mount Sinai. The design constitutes an elaborate cosmological and theological ensemble with all the elements drawn together into an abstract, geometric symbolism.

Detail: Back of Panel


  1. See N.P. Kondakov 'Mystical and Didactic Subjects' in The Russian Icon, Oxford, 1928. [return]