643. AN IMPORTANT PAIR OF TRIPTYCH FOLDS OF THE MOTHER OF GOD "IT IS TRULY MEET" (DOSTOINO EST')
NORTHERN RUSSIA, SECOND HALF OF THE 17TH CENTURY, .
Left door 99.6 by 31 cm; right door 99.6 by 28.5 cm
The theme of these two exceptionally beautiful and complex side panels from a folding triptych is the Theotokos which, without doubt, formed the framing folds for a larger central panel of the Mother of God. The main area of the panels (excluding the upper reserve) depicts four parts of the “Dostoyno Est” [“Axion Estin” or “It Is Truly Meet”] composition. The execution takes into account the construction of the folding triptych: the first two parts are on the inside left-hand panel, one beneath the other, and the second pair are arranged in the same way on the inside right-hand panel (by contrast, a composition of this kind on an individual icon is read horizontally, with scenes 1 and 2 in the upper tier, and 3 and 4 in the lower). Underlying this iconography, is the text of a devotional chant in praise of the Mother of God from the Liturgy of St John Chrysostum. In the first two scenes, the text of the verses is written on unfurled scrolls held above the Virgin by angels: 1. “It is truly meet to bless Thee, Theotokos” and 2. “Ever Blessed, Most Immaculate and Mother of our God”. In the third composition, above the angelic powers housed in rectangles of various colours, is the inscription: “More to be honoured than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim”. In the fourth composition, an unfurled scroll is held by Saints Cyril and Athanasius of Alexandria: “who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word, we magnify Thee, very Theotokos”. In the upper section of the panels, the Kontakion hymn to the Mother of God as “Champion Leader” is illustrated with a fragmentary inscription preserved, reading: ‘hampi.. …er’. In this way the central panel was framed not only at the sides but also from above, by scenes to elucidate one of the best loved devotional chants to the Mother of God. The reverse, outer faces of the side panels are decorated with ornamental foliate designs, typical of the free brushwork found on pieces of applied art from northern Russia. Each panel has two compositions, the ‘Cross of Calvary with the instruments of the Passion’ and a multi-petalled rosette. Folding triptychs were typically painted on the back in this or a similar style in the 17th century.