101784 | RUSSIA. "Saint Helena, Equal to the Apostles" wooden Icon.
101784 | RUSSIA. "Saint Helena, Equal to the Apostles" wooden Icon. Made 1898-1903 (117mm x 132mm, 171.77 g). Yakov Nikolaevich Lyapunov, silversmith in St. Petersburg.
Silver oklad: СВ. РАП. ЦАР. – ЄЛЄНА across field, image of Saint Helena–crowned, veiled, and draped, with radiant nimbus crown and holding crucifix; openings revealing her head, neck, and hands, all of which are painted in tempera atop wood; hallmarks: «84 (kokoshnik) ЯЛ» «КР». Back and sides: Covered in deep green felt, with the oklad hammered into the wood on each side.
Cf. Auction House «Егоровых» 7, lot 8. Extremely Fine. Light gilt appearance to the oklad on the nimbus crown, with more of a gunmetal gray nature to the remainder; incredible detail overall, and a majestic and moving piece of art.
Please refer to the in-hand photo in order to get a more accurate sense of the size of this icon.
Following the conversion of the peoples of the Ancient Rus' (those in the eastern and northern portions of Europe) to Orthodox Christianity in the late 10th century, queues were taken from Byzantine art and iconography. As time progressed, and given the lack of more personal representations of religion, the practice in the emerging tsardom of Russia began to emulate the artistic traditions in western Europe within the Protestant and Catholic spheres. Thus, the Russian icon was born—a representation of one's religion and hopes, all in the form of a small-scale, craft-oriented image, usually done on wood and with the ability to venerate in one's house. The imagery would usually focus upon Christ or the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary), but could vary widely to other lesser-encountered saints and passages, even to those more native to the Orthodox church in the Russian dominion. The various images would generally be painted in tempera, a type of paint mixed with egg, and featured a gilt-infused background in order to elevate the flair and magnificence. Later additions to the practice would include a "protective" layer made out of tin, bronze, or silver known as an "oklad" or "riza," allowing both the image beneath to be somewhat protected along with the oklad itself to be further adorned and embellished by the silversmith–adding to the majesty and dazzling nature of the icon.
The mother of Constantine I "the Great" (the first Roman emperor to adopt Christianity), Helena figures greatly in the 4th century tradition of the religion. Being the mother to the emperor, she was given the task, and seemingly unending funds, to locate relics from the early history of the Church, such as (purportedly) the true cross, nails of the crucifixion, Christ's tunic, and the rope used to tie him to the cross. These alleged discoveries, along with many others, led her to becoming the patron saint of new discoveries.
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