Sotheby's London will offer an important Imperial Silver-Gilt and Cloisonne Enamel Icon of Christ Pantocrator, (Ovchinnikov, Moscow, 1884) – commemorating the miraculous survival of Emperor Alexander III and his family when the Imperial train derailed disastrously near Borki in 1888. Twenty-one members of the Imperial retinue died and in the richly-appointed dining car, the Emperor’s dog Kamchatka was killed instantly at his master’s feet. The Emperor, who held up the collapsing roof of the car to allow his family to escape, was later presented with this Icon by his elite guards. Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna recalled the terrible scene of the aftermath in her memoirs: “I found myself at the bottom of a steep slope which the carriage had rolled down. I got up onto my feet and looked back. I saw bleeding people tumbling and falling down after me … It was dreadful … I thought all my loved ones had been killed.” In both state decrees and church sermons this event was presented as proof of God’s divine intervention. Inscribed ‘[From the] Guards [to] Their Imperial Majesties’ and ‘On the Occasion of the Miraculous Rescue during the Imperial Train’s Accident’, the Icon speaks potently of devotion and of the bond between Tsar and people.
Hung in the chapel at Gatchina – the Emperor’s favourite imperial residence – the icon was kept as an important family relic of deep personal significance. Exquisitely enamelled with floral detailing, this rare and richly historical work displays the most filigree craftsmanship and is saturated in Romanov history. After the Revolution this powerfully emotive Icon was believed to be among many of the Imperial family’s belongings that were dispersed on the European antiquarian market. The sale will take place at Sotheby's in London on November 28th, and carries an estimate of £180,000-250,000.
© Sotheby's and Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 25 October, 2012