Russian Icon- Crucifixion and Procession Cross
This painted panel with a bronze cross inlay is of Russian origin and is emblematic of the importance of the icon and its tradition in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Orthodoxy was established in Russia in the late 10th century when the nation was subsumed into the Byzantine Empire. This state of affairs dictated Russian artistic development over the next several hundred years, which actively avoided the innovations of the Renaissance in favour of the stylized and symbolic representations of divine figures that were copied in order to preserve their spiritual power. Indeed, these icons were rarely signed or dated, being seen as spiritual copies of their original and divine predecessor. In this case, a bronze procession cross topped with the mandylion (an image of Christ produced by mystical rather than human hands) is flanked by scenes of the descent from the cross (top left), Christ’s entombment (top right), Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary (bottom left), and St. John the Evangelist and Joseph of Arimathea (bottom right). On either side of Christ’s hands are the sun and the moon, while at his feet are the towers of Jerusalem, and further below is the skull of Adam the sinner. A conservative and preservative form of art, Russian icon painting began to dwindle by the end of the 19th century with the advent of photomechanical means of reproduction, leading many icons to be destroyed, sold, or hidden. The market for icons has since expanded due to their rarity and overlooked artistic value, though this has also prompted the creation of modern forgeries. This object likely dates from the first half of the 19th century.