MacDougall Auctions 2-3 December 2009

2 December 2009

Artist Index / Full Catalogue




23.8 by 57.7 cm.
3,000-5,000 pounds

This unique icon unites three venerable saints and wonderworkers, particularly popular in the Arkhangelsk region. These are the founding fathers of three monasteries of the Russian North: Zosimas and Sabbatius of Solovki who founded the famous Solovetsky Monastery by the White Sea, and Alexander of Oshevensk, the founder of the Oshevensk Trinity Monastery, one of the most significant ecclesiastical institutions in the town of Kargopol and its environs. The half-length figures are unusual for icons and therefore testify to a special, most likely monastic commission of the painting. St Alexander of Oshevensk is singled out through his central position, his figure is slightly larger compared to the images of the other two saints, his halo outlined with pearl-dotted decoration and his head adorned with a schema (a monastic cowl decorated with a Golgotha motif); these all doubtlessly testify to the Kargopolian origin of the icon and suggest that it was produced for a local monastic church, perhaps for the Oshevensk Monastery itself.

This rare icon, painted on a horizontally elongated panel, was apparently held in great esteem and veneration, as demonstrated by the burnt marks from an oil lamp, which used to hang in front of the central image. The icon is unlined and further technically characterised by only a thin layer of gesso; one layer of semi-transparent paint; detailed inscriptions (written with mistakes); a combination of earth pigments with red ochre typical of the northern palette, as well as unpretentious naive iconography. All these elements suggest the work of Kargopol masters, only a few examples of which survive today, which makes the icon particularly significant. The image conveys intimate sincerity and devout piety, so characteristic of the ascetics from the north of Russia.

Notes on symbols:
* Indicates 5% Import Duty Charge applies.
Ω Indicates 20% Import Duty Charge applies.
§ Indicates Artist's Resale Right applies.
† Indicates Standard VAT scheme applies, and the rate of 20% VAT will be charged on both hammer price and premium.