26 November 2014
SIGNED BY V. MESHKOV IN CYRILLIC AND DATED 1904
26.5 by 22 cm.
Related literature: For similar works, see Dukhovnaya sreda Rossii. Pevcheskie knigi I ikony XVII — nachala XX vekov, Мoscow, 1996. p. 117, cat. 29.
Nikodim Pavlovich Kondakov (1844–1925). Lichnost’, nauchnoe nasledie, arkhiv, St Petersburg, 2001, p. 143, cat. 26.
For the artist’s biography, see Pravoslavnaya entsiklopedia, Moscow, 2008, vol. 19, p. 492.
This icon portrays one of the favourite subjects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Guardian Angel is depicted on a cloud against a hazy landscape. The Angel wields a sword in his left hand and his right hand is shown as if holding a cross (an attribute of the relevant iconography).
Depictions of this kind were produced by leading icon painters of the time; Iosif Chirikov, Ivan Bryagin, and Vasiliy Guryanov. The style of such images hark back to an extensive series of calendar and ferial icons produced in the 1880s–1890s by the well known masters M.I. Dikarev and I.S. Chirikov for the Grand-Ducal Marble Palace in St Petersburg.
The execution of this “Guardian Angel” icon is highly professional. The muted palette, as distinct from the brighter colours used by the aforementioned painters, helps generate an integrity about the image: the Angel’s green-gold tunic and cloak do not demarcate his figure from the expanse of heaven or earth; rather his widespread wings –charged with the energy of flight — form a gently curving line over the earth, as if embracing, covering and keeping it from harm. Harmony infuses the carefully balanced composition, emphasising the perfection of God’s creation. A second spiritual focus of the icon is the roundel of the Emmanuel at the centre of the top border, similarly supported on a semicircle of clouds, thus emphasising the deep connection between God and the Guardian Angel who does His bidding. Everything about this icon — the colours, the composition, the soft lines of the figure — brings the subject nearer to the faithful. The icon painter fixes in the viewer’s mind an idea of the impregnable protection that their heavenly guardian provides. These particular features encourage the presumption that the icon was privately commissioned. The borders of the icon are covered in a rich polychrome ornamentation, impressed into the gesso to resemble precious enamel and a similarly muted palette is used so as not to impinge on the integrity of the image. The bottom right-hand corner bears the painter’s signature “V. Meshkov. 1904”. In view of the thought put into its composition and the mastery of the icon’s execution, it is likely to come from the brush of Vasiliy Nikitich Meshkov (1867–1946), painter and draughtsman, later People’s Artist of the RSFSR (1943), Doctor of Fine Art Studies and Professor at the USSR Academy of Arts. This “Guardian Angel” icon is an icon of great interest to collectors: as a historical testament to personal piety, a image of the highest artistic merit — and as a signed work by Meshkov.
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.