Icon: Prophet Elijah

Icon: Prophet Elijah
(click image to zoom-in)
Painting, Tempera on panel, 63.8x37.5 cm
Origin: Russia, Second half of the 13th century

This icon formed part of an old kind of iconostasis with frontal, waist-length depictions of figures in the Deesis Row. An iconostasis is the altar screen which divides the high altar from the main body of a Russian Orthodox church. This icon, like others from the same row, is painted in dark colours. Dating from the second half of the 13th or early 14th century, it is the work of a northern Russian master. Before it entered the Hermitage it was in the wooden Church of Elijah in Vyazentsy on the River Onega.

The Deesis Row is the main part of the iconostasis, expressing the idea of intercession by the saints for mankind before Christ the judge . In later icons the side figures were to be shown not frontally but turned towards Christ. In this case the row included icons of Christ Pantocrator, St Peter and St Paul, which are also now in the Hermitage. Icons with figures from the Old Testament, like the prophet Elijah, were usually placed in a separate, Prophets' Row.

Departing from tradition here not only in the placing of Elijah in the Deesis Row, but also in the iconography, the artist showed the prophet not wearing a sheepskin and holding a staff but wearing ornamented robes with a scroll in his left hand.

Personage: The Prophet Elijah
Source of entry: State Hermitage Expedition, Belomorsk, 1958
School: North Russian Schools
Theme: The Bible and Christianity

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