Rare Faberge Icon Triptych Goes to Auction
An extremely important Imperial Russian presentation icon triptych, from the Fabergé workshop and signed by court iconographer Nikolai Sergeevich Emelianov, circa 1912.
||| Back to the Royal Russia News Archive |||
||| Royal Russia Bulletin - Our Official Blog. Updated Daily With News Clips, Videos & Photographs |||
||| Royal Russia Video & Film Archive ||| Romanov & Imperial Russia Links |||
||| Our Bookshop: Books on the Romanovs & Imperial Russia ||| Gilbert's Books - Publisher of Books on the Romanovs |||
||| What's New @ Royal Russia - Updated Monthly |||
||| Return to Royal Russia - Directory ||| Return to Royal Russia - Main Page |||
Jackson’s International will conduct an important two-day fine art auction on Nov. 13 and 14. The sale begins with an impressive collection of Russian works, including those belonging to the Rev. Dr. Vienna Cobb Anderson. The Rev. Dr. Cobb Anderson of Richmond, Va., a Yale and Princeton educated Episcopal priest, has passionately collected for many years throughout her travels and is offering her collection to the market for the first time. Complementing Cobb-Anderson’s collection is a collection of icons deaccessioned from an East Coast museum.
Also included in Russian works are over 50 pieces of Russian silver and enamel alone including works by Fabergé (including a nice silver and translucent enamel frame), Ruckert, Ovchinnikov, Khlebnikov, Kurlykov, Britzen, Hahn and many others. Russian Imperial porcelain, militaria, Imperial photos and correspondence as well as over 50 pieces of Russian lacquerware and other objets d’art will be offered. Russian jewelry will also be represented including a Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna presentation brooch, the Order of St. George and a Galitzine family gold and diamond pendant among other pieces.
The sale will feature over 140 Russian icons, circa 1600-1917, including many rare and exceptional examples. Most notably, an extremely important Imperial Russian presentation icon triptych, from the Fabergé workshop and signed by court iconographer Nikolai Sergeevich Emelianov, circa 1912. This icon is rich in history, given by Empress Alexandra Feodorvona to the administrator of Tsarkoe Selo, Col. Dimitry Nikolaevich Loman (1868-1918). The beautiful icon features the Sign Mother of God in the central reserve, characteristically painted with a gem and pearl encrusted veil.
Provenance of the icon triptych (above): Colonel Dmitrii Nikolaivich Loman, circa 1912, presumably a gift from Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. With Bowater Gallery, London, where acquired by Mrs. Harold Leather of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, accompanied by original receipt of purchase dated August 10, 1970. Thence by descent to her son, Sir Edwin Leather (1919-2005) former Governor of Bermuda, and acquired by the present owner from the estate of Sir Edwin Leather.
The icon’s name derives from the Serafimo-Ponetaevskaya convent, established in 1864 in memory of Saint Serafim (1754/9 - 1833), whose hermitage was located at nearby Sarov. The convent was famous for its icon painting workshops, and in 1879, a novice named Klavdia Voiloshnikovna made a copy of an icon of the Sign that had been acquired from the artist Pavel Sorokin who oversaw the painting studio. In addition to the canonical features of Sign icons - the half-length figure of the Mother of God with her hands raised in prayer and the Christ Child encircled by a nimbus within Her womb - the icon that Voiloshnikovna copied had several distinctive features. The Mother of God’s eyes are lifted to heaven and a pearl and gem encrusted veil sheathes her head and shoulders, imparting to her face a teardrop-shaped contour. The faces are rendered in the painterly style popular in the nineteenth century and have a certain sentimental sweetness. On May 14, 1885 the icon performed the first of many miracles and by the end of the year was officially proclaimed miracle-working by the Holy Synod.
At the same time Nicholas and Alexander gave permission and funds to build a permanent cathedral on the grounds of the Alexander Palace at Tsarkoe Selo, where their family might worship surrounded by their most devoted troops as well as their favorite sacred images. Consecrated in 1912, the cathedral contained two churches. In the upper church dedicated to the Feodorovskaya Mother of God icon, a five-tiered iconostasis was installed, filled with new icons painted by Emelianov in the same 17th century style and lavishly adorned with silver basma. On the lower level, space was carved out for a crypt church and it was here that the temporary church’s altar, icons, relics and fixtures were transferred. To the Ponetaevskaya icon was added a copy of the Umilenie Mother of God that had been Saint Serafim’s personal icon, together with an icon of the saint himself. A second Ponetaevskaya icon hung nearby in the empress’s own private chapel, donated by the empress’s sister, Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna in 1912 and adorned with a sumptuous silver oklad and costly embroidered veil.
In every sense the offered triptych is a microcosm and memento of the Feodorovsky Cathedral whose construction and decoration Loman oversaw. The painting is the work of the Palekh- trained Moscow-based court iconographer and restorer Nikolai Sergeevich Emelianov. Having proved his ability to interpret the spirit of 17th century icons in a modern idiom with the iconostasis for the temporary church, Emelianov was among a select group of iconographers (including Mikhail Dikarev) commissioned to provide icons for the cathedral’s upper church (Fig.4). Emelianov also prepared the drawings for the mosaic icons that marked the multiple entrances to the cathedral. In addition to the iconostasis, in 1910-11 Emelianov painted 102 icons for the cathedral itself, including “an icon of the Mother of God of the Sign with attendant angels,” of which the present icon may have been the model for the Loman triptych. Icons by Emelianov from the Feodorovsky Cathedral and other late Imperial churches are preserved in the State Museum of the History of Religion and, like the present icon, are generally signed in the lower right corner. So pleased were the royal family with his work, that Emelianov was awarded a silver medal on a Vladimir ribbon for his icons in the Feodorovsky Cathedral together with the Emperor’s “personal thanks.”
Clearly, the triptych is a testament to Loman’s deeply held conviction - one he shared with the Imperial couple - that a renaissance of Old Russian values in contemporary life was a goal within reach. In the absence of a presentation plaque or other documentation we can only speculate as to its origins. It would certainly have been a fitting gift of appreciation and remembrance from the Empress for whom Loman had proved so indispensable. It is displayed in Loman’s office near an assortment of personal photographs depicting Tsar Nicholas II and the Empress of the type known to have been given by the royal couple to those whom they held in high esteem. However, perhaps the best clue as to who might have commissioned this icon rests in the fact that it was decorated by the firm of Fabergé. For it is well known that when the Tsar and Tsarina wanted to favor someone special with an extraordinary gift they would call upon the workshop of Fabergé to fulfill such requests. When all known facts are taken into consideration, Imperial silversmith Fabergé, court iconographer Emelianov, and the triptych being situated in the office of dutiful royal confidant and administrator Dmitrii Loman, it is fair to presume that the offered lot was indeed a gift from Nicholas and Alexandra to Loman most likely upon the completion of the cathedral in the fall of 1913 which Loman oversaw, including the task of primary fundraiser.
Source & Copyright: Jackson's International Auctioneers.