The "Gelos" collection for the Fine Art Fair: ICONS
The main part of the icons exhibited by "Gelos" company belongs to the unique collection of the well-known Moscow antiquary V.A.Bondarenko. The specialists and wide audience had already got acquainted with this collection by two shows - in the State Tretyakov gallery (2003) and in the A.Rublev's central museum of Old Russian Culture and Art (2004). A fundamental catalogue of the exhibition had been written by Russian leading specialists of art history "By the fruit the tree is recognized..." by the time the first show opening (M., 2003). It is necessary to point out that the icons exhibition from the private collection in one of the main museums of the country was and still is unprecedented. The great respect to Bondarenko's collection provoked by its high level and remarkable composition. All the masterpieces of the collection have a certain historical and cultural, art and museum value.
The most ancient among the presented at the auction is an icon of "St. Martyr Paraskeva" dated by the first quarter of the XVI century. Oblong proportions of the saint figure, a delicate painting of saint face and exquisite colouring, where a scarlet vermilion of mantle emphasizing a soft turquoise blue colour of chiton, resemble Dionysius' art - one of the great painters of old Russia. The icon was painted in the Central Russia's territory, while its Moscow origin is not denied. "Christ in majesty" - the central icon of deesis tier of iconstand - belongs to another tradition; it is more archaic and far from capital samples. Instead of red vermilion the icon-painter used the orange red lead paint, instead of blueness - bluish green colour, that is typical for iconpainting of Northern regions. Nevertheless the painting is carried with an exceptional skill demonstrative of the extraordinary talent and large experience of the painter. "St.Trinity" relates to the middle - the third quarter of the XVI century, the artistic devices of it are typical for Vologda iconpainting. An intense colour range, dark ochre faces and predomination of red undertones affiliates the composition with tension and dramatic specific for the monuments of Ivan the Terrible's period. The classical work of Rostov school an icon of "St.Leontiy Rostovsky" is dated by the second half of the XVI century. During this period Rostov iconpainting was greatly influenced by Moscow iconography school, but also preserved its original principle: soft brushwork, vivid and versatile lines, and restrained colour range. Iconography in this regard obviously ascended to Dionysius (working for Rostov archbishop Vassian); such icons were painted at Rostov bishop's yard as ceremonial (i.e. aimed as a gift to the distinguished clerical and social figures).
Russian iconpainting of the XVII-XVIII centuries is reproduced by several magnificent masterpieces. "Celestial Ladder with Parables and Exhortations", essentially is a unique philosophical treatise: that is why there are so many inscriptions there. The main subject matter of icon - is the recollection on a saintly life and afterlife retaliation. In the centre under Jacob's ladder, by which the monks ascending into the Haven, is a picture of "Parable of Sweetness of the World". In the greenery of the Tree of Life is a gaudy while Death is shooting, and the roots of the Tree are gnawed by the mice. To save from martyrdom could only the soul's eminence, personified in the image of Virgin: she defeated the lion, the adder and the Devil himself. Moral icon-proverbs were put at the porch of monastic churches to edify the brethren and pilgrims, only a few samples of this rare genre are still preserved nowadays.
During the second half of the XVII century the icon painting was centralized: the best masters from different regions were invited working to Moscow Armoury chamber which had become for some time a kind "Academy of Arts" of the XVII century. A special style was formed at the imperial court - bright, trimming, ornamental, including some elements of European baroque. All Russian iconpainting techniques of the XVII - XIX centuries were greatly influenced by this style. "School of Aurmory chamber" sounded in such works as "Christ Pantocrator", "the Feodorovskaya Mother of God", "Dormition of the Virgin with Chosen Saints in the margins", "St.Nikolas the Miracle Worker with legend". A plentiful amount of gold and silver plating, a special device of gold colouring with a help of semi-transparent lacquers, rich ornaments at the icon "Christ Pantacrator" contributed in creation of really kingly image of Christ - Lord of the world. The same royalty is impressive in the icon of the Feodorovskay Mother of God. The Mother of God's face does not copy the traits of the original miracle-working icon from Kostroma, with which Martha Romanova blessed for kingdom, young Mikhail: an icon from Bondarenko's collection is enlightened with new aesthetics, solemn and magnificent. An oblong face of the Virgin Mary with large eyes fringed with long lashes and closed lips bear an impression of real aristocratism.
"Formation of the Virgin" demonstrates the Yaroslavl variant of the same style with roundish faces, expressive postures and gestures, soft pleats of bright clothes. The rose background with tonal expansion as if enlightening all the images is very effective. The icon of Saint Nikolas the Miracle Worker was painted in Kostroma region. The icon painters from Kostroma enjoyed a deserved reputation during the second half of the XVII and the early period of the XVIII centuries: their works in the level of execution were equal to Moscow painters' art pieces, and in sophistication of ornaments and beauty of colouring sometimes exceeded them. In this very case the author of the icon made origin and opposite combination of a central part marked with a fastidious fancy arch with rows of hagiographic marks forming around the saint's figure an additional ornamental frame. Возрождение elite variant of traditional icon painting in the last quarter of XVIII century connected first of all with Old Believers who highly valued "Stroganov's school of icon painting". The large centre of the Old Believers icon painting became the ancient Volzhski town Romanov. The masters of this town adopted from "Stroganov's" painters of late of the XVI - early of the XVII centuries the commitment to the sophicated iconagraphic draughtsmanship, miniature painting and beauty of colouring. A perfect and rare sample of "romanov's painting style" highly valued by collectors in XIX century, could be the icon of Feast of Archangel Mikhail and All Angels, with four evangelists and chosen saints.
Late of the XIX - early of the XX century the merits of Russian traditional icon painting was estimated not only by the Old Believers and connoisseurs but also by the upper class. The painters from Mstera settlement Joseph Semenovich Chirikov, Mikhail Ivanovich Dikarev and Vasily Pavlovich Guryanov worked for the Eperor Nikolas II and the czar family. Their painting is distinct by the superlative level of professional performance which becomes clear for example at the signed and dated icon of I.S.Chirikov "the Blessed Basile Fool For Christ and the Venerable Mary". Everything is executed thoroughly and precisely in this icon - starting with faces painted with single minute touches ending with ornamental margins. The icon in performance is close to the famous series crafted by I.S.Chirikov and Dikarev for the church of Marble palace in St.Petersburg. The icon of the Saint Alexander Nevsky and the Venerable Kseniya belongs to the same type, inscribed by M.I. Dikarev, while Guryanov's image of Christ Pantocrator touched by stylistics of modern. This unusual work has a seal of Moscow Guryanov's workshop at the reverse and a mark of implementation to palace property. At the First Russian exhibition of monastery works and church ware in 1904 V.P.Guryanov was awarded with Grand prix, 12 his icons from the exhibition werе purchased by Empress Alexandra Fedorovna, and since 1905 the painter had become the supplier of Imperial Court. The fact that Nikolas II was pleased to become a god father for the painter's daughter proved that V.P.Guryanov was close to the Emperor. An icon with a half-length portrait of Christ Pantocrator in stylistics, iconography and technical matter (including the rare technique of panel treatment) has analogue among another works of Guryanov's workshop. A fine face of Saviour embodies an ideal of spirituality typical for the "silver age".
A special group consists of the icons in precious casing. To the undutiful masterpieces the icon of the Mother of God of the Sign with enamel perforated wreath should be assigned, painted in Moscow in the second half of the XVII century (painting - first third of the XVII century). The casing belonged to this period are rarely found anywhere except the museum collections. Another icon of the same technique was written in Moscow in the first half of the XVIII century in the traditions of the "Armoury Chamber School". A silver casing with enamel wreaths for the icon was specially ordered in XX century. The forms of Russian style popular in church silverware of the second half of XIX century, give the way to more unconstrained modern plastique (in neorussian variant). An icon of "St.Trinity", according to the legend at the reverse originates from Kostroma region and belongs to the "academic" branch of iconpainting of new time. Its casing is impressing by elaborate architectonics as well as и ornamental wealth, which is greatly contributed by the diversity of the surface texture (for example at the oak body wrinkled bark is chased and in the head of the tree not only leaves but acorns could be seen). Elegant wreaths and decorative fittings with enamel in filigree complete the composition.
Another five masterpieces origined from other private Moscow collections are also worthy for antiquaries and salon visitors. A diptych of the late XVI - early of the XVII centuries "St. Nikolas with saint George and Dmitriy" by all appearance was made in Pskov one of the largest centers of medieval iconpainting. Besides the style peculiarities the Pskov origin is also proved by the image of count Timofey-Dovmont a heavenlike patron of the city put among the selected saints. "St.Sophia the Holy Wisdom" - an ancient and rare subject - is reproduced in unexpected baroque variant at the icon panel of the first half of XVII century, obviously painted by the master from Yaroslavl. The composition of the icon is extremely expressive and could be related to the best embodiment of "Sophia's" theme in iconpainting of modern time. The shapes and colouring of the image are still keeping in memory the works of czar masters from Armoury Chamber. "Feodorovskaya Mother of God" The icon is a copy of the original miracle-working icon of the Feodorovskaya Mother of God originating from Kostroma. Unlike the icon from Bondarenko's collection it replicates the physiognomic traits of the ancient original. Such copies were considered to be gifted with certain sanctity. The casing of 1790-s was ordered in St.Petersburg. In rich cartouche medallions В пышных картушах чувствуются отголоски барокко, but thin and elegant ornamented margins testify the beginning of classicism - the "golden age" of Russian silversmith.
"Kazan Mother of God", painted in oil technique belongs to the trend in iconpainting of the XIX century which was in demand of Russian nobility culture. It is proved by the "Italianized" image of Mother and Child while the canon iconography is kept. The rich casing in style of "second baroque" was produced in St.Petersburg in 1850. Undoubtedly the very icon originated from St.Petersburg: the image of Kazan Mother of God was especially respected in new Russian capital.
An icon of "the Only Begotten Son" recovers a complicated and rather rare symbolic and dogmatic iconography of the XVI century, in which Christ-warrior is bestriding the rail of the Cross triumphing over Death and Hell. Specific features of painting are typical for Mstera iconpainting and high quality of performance is equal to many works of well-known masters from Mstera and Palekh settlements.
The represented pieces of art objectively depict the general development and high achievements of Russian iconpainting from the XVI to the beginning of the XX century. Each of them is unique to this or that extent and some of them by right could be called the masterpieces of church art.
Doctor of Art criticism,
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