26 November 2014
28 by 37 cm.
The icon is a striking example of the Russian Art Nouveau style and reproduces an original which marked the highest artistic achievements of this style. The iconographer took as his original a fresco in the apse of the Church of the Protection of the Mother of God at the Martha and Mary Convent, created by Mikhail Nesterov in 1911. Nesterov, one of the most influential religious artists of the early 20th century, turned frequently to the image of the Protection of the Mother of God (Pokrov), which resonated strongly with Russian consciousness at the time of the First World War. Two of his paintings, dating from 1914 and 1910 are dedicated to this theme and are remarkable for including images of the Martha and Mary Convent, which was founded in 1907 by Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna (who was canonized in 1992).
Faithful to the original, the icon painter achieves expressiveness through a laconic and generalised silhouette, linear rhythm and a combination of pink, blue and light blue which convey the real and spiritual worlds. The architectural motifs — towers, walls and buildings — are copied from the reverse perspective images of 16th and 17th century icons.
The Art Nouveau style is apparent in the metal frame with its embossed floral ornaments, setting off the cool colours of the icon with warm golden-yellow tones and enriching the flatness of the paint with relief ornament and the inscription: "Hail our joy, protect us from all evil with your glorious robe” (Incantation for the Protection of the Holy Mother of God). The theme of the Virgin Mary’s intercession for humanity and her receptiveness to prayer are underscored by this choice of text and the intense gaze of the subject, who looks directly at the viewer. This contrasts with Nesterov’s works, where the subject avoids eye contact.
The Pokrov is an impressive fusion of various features of the Russian Art Nouveau style in its appeal to national tradition and personal experience, its antique stylisation and the important role of ornamentation in the image.
According to tradition, the icon was presented to the mother of the owner by the family of Baron Pyotr Wrangel.
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.