The Museum of Russian Icons is pleased to announce the acquisition of a significant, monumental icon, circa 1550. At 52 x 40 inches, an icon of this huge size was probably commissioned for a church. It is one of the largest and most valuable icons in the collection of the MRI. Portraying Saint Nicholas in the standing pose holding a sacred text in one hand and his other hand held up in benediction is characteristic of the icon called St. Nicholas of Zaraisk. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children, wedded couples, the poor, sailors and of many groups who adopted him as their protector.
Museum of Russian Icons Founder and Director Gordon B. Lankton, and Kent Russell, Museum CEO & Curator, negotiated with the Temple Gallery in London to secure this purchase. Sir Richard Temple, Baronet, and owner of the gallery is considered a world authority on Russian icons and has built several significant collections over his dignified career.
This particular icon depicts the central figure of St. Nicholas surrounded by 22 small scenes highlighting the various deeds and miracles associated with his legendary life. This is a richly detailed icon in the style of the Suzdal region. Suzdal was an important commercial center in the Middle Ages located in the so-called Golden Horn north of Moscow. A long-standing rivalry existed between the area’s two major cities of Suzdal and Novgorod until the 1600s, manifested by the cities artisans and artists competing to produce ever-more lavish and magnificent works of art.
This St. Nicolas of Zaraisk icon has a glowing, jewel-like quality with the characteristic palette of extraordinary bright colors representative of Suzdal icons. According to Boston painter and conservator Alexander Gassel, the icon is virtually untouched and appears quite close to its original state. The extensive use of highly valuable lapis lazuli color derived from semi-precious lazuli stone from Afghanistan was once more valuable than gold. This material is indicative of the quality of the icon as well as the enormous cost of commissioning this icon in the mid 16th century.
This monumental icon is a major acquisition and stands as one of the major icons in this collection of over 450 icons, making it the largest collection of Russian icons outside of Russia.
Museum of Russian Icons, CLinton, Mass., Museum Open: Tue. - Fri., 11AM - 3PM; Thurs. ’til 7PM; Sat. 9AM - 3PM