27 May 2012
THE CHIRIKOV BROTHERS WORKSHOP, SIGNED AND DATED 1907, OKLAD
STAMPED WITH MARK OF ALEXANDER LUBAVIN UNDER IMPERIAL WARRANT,
ST PETERSBURG, 84 STANDARD .
15.5 by 13 cm with oklad.
This icon is a unique commemorative and historic artefact. Evidence of this is found on the metal plate on the reverse of the icon, inscribed “To Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna to commemorate 10th April 1908. Office Controller to the Court, Office officials and attendants, wardens and servants at the Palaces in St Petersburg and Tsarskoye Selo and the occasional homes, manager and staff of the power plant”.
The image of the Guardian Angel was presented to the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, born Marie Alexandrine Elisabeth Eleonore von Mecklenburg-Schwerin, wife of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, on an occasion of great significance for her and the entire imperial family. Her marriage to Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (1847–1909), third son of Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna, only became possible three years after they met. A Lutheran from birth, Maria did not wish to convert to Orthodoxy and Emperor Alexander III did not immediately allow his brother to marry a woman who was not Orthodox. The wedding took place on the 16th August 1874. It was more than 30 years later, after the birth of her children, that Maria Pavlovna adopted Orthodoxy. The date was 10th April 1908, not long before her husband’s death. Emperor Nicholas II announced her conversion in a special Imperial Proclamation ordering that she “be titled Her Imperial Highness the Truly Faithful Grand Duchess”.
Maria Pavlovna’s long-awaited adoption of Orthodoxy (as a rule, brides of Grand Princes converted to Orthodoxy on the eve of their wedding) was widely celebrated in court circles. Amongst the tributes offered to the Grand Duchess, this icon was a most exquisite gift.
As patrons of the arts, the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich and his wife were supporters of “the Russian style”. Commissioning an icon from the Chirikov brothers, successors to the Old Russian traditions of icon-painting, was in the spirit of the Grand-princely couple’s artistic taste. From the 1880s to 1903, the father of the family, Iosif (Osip) Semyonovich Chirikov, together with another well-known icon-painter from Mstera, M.I. Dikarev, painted a series of Saints Day calendar icons for the Church of the Marble Palace in St Petersburg. In 1903 further painting to some icons from this set was undertaken at the Moscow workshop of the brothers Grigoriy and Mikhail Osipovich Chirikov.
The Guardian Angel is a traditional subject for such occasions, and the high quality of this artefact is evidence that it was especially commissioned. The figure of the angel is rendered in luminous colours, the wings have a highlighted edge, the central feathers are outlined in rosy-lilac “festoons” and the subdued gold niello background is reminiscent of the gold embroidery of Old Russia.
The icon painter’s masterly achievement is matched by the high artistic merit of the oklad, made by the St Petersburg silversmith A.B. Lyubavin, a supplier to the Imperial Court. The border oklad has a frame of repoussé “beading” enclosing dense ornamentation of interlaced plant stems and flower buds.
The historic uniqueness of this artefact adds to its exceptional virtues as a work of art.
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.