Mother of God Antique Russian Icon
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The most dominant motif in Eastern Orthodox Russian iconography is the Mother of God. This enameled bronze icon depicts a bust-length image of the Bogolubskaya Mother of God. The original Bogolubskaya icon was painted in 1157 to commemorate the appearance of The Virgin Mary to Grand Prince Andrew Bogolubsky, whose last name means Lover of God. The Mother of God is holding a scroll with an invocation prayer to Christ and her other hand is raised in supplication and worship.
The enameling is intricate and lovely, in shades of blue, red, white and yellow. The Virgin Mary and her scroll are in the highest relief, with her halo enameled with white orbs. She is surrounded by foliage and floral motifs on a light blue background. Around the border are scrolling figures on a deeper blue ground, the overall effect reminiscent of cloisonné.
The typed label on the back, already present when we purchased the icon, states that this Russian bronze icon depicts the Virgin and is from a Deesis group. The Deësis group includes icons of Christ, Mary and St. John the Baptist, sometimes with other saints and angels added. There are Cyrillic letters etched into the bronze above the label; we attempted to decipher them without success. The date of 1917 is also etched into the back; this is the year of the Russian Revolution, which we found interesting. It's entirely plausible that the icon was made prior to that year, possibly in the 19th century. The letter G contained in a square is stamped into the metal at the bottom; this letter, of course, is from the Latin alphabet and may indicate the maker, the artist or perhaps even a previous owner.
The ikona ("image" in Russian) weighs 1 pound, 3 ounces and measures 5 1/2 inches by 4 3/4 inches (the paper label is incorrect on the height measurement). This is a personal icon, meant to hang in one's home and portable for traveling. It has a sturdy ring for hanging on the upper back. It has not been part of a triptych, as there is no evidence of its having been attached at either side to another icon. The front of the piece is in very good condition, with no damages to the enamel and slight surface wear to the bronze. There is a bit more wear to the back, where the icon is showing its age, but that's still in good condition. This is a beautiful hand made piece of antique Russian art.