Attribution of the icon of st. Christopher (private collection, Kiev) Cover Image

Атрибуція ікони святого Христофора (з приватної колекції, м. Київ)
Attribution of the icon of st. Christopher (private collection, Kiev)

Author(s): Nataliya Kravchenko
Subject(s): Visual Arts, Middle Ages, Modern Age, Eastern Orthodoxy
Published by: Національна академія керівних кадрів культури і мистецтв
Keywords: Attribution; Saint Christopher; cynocephalus; the icon belonged to Old Believers;

Summary/Abstract: This article is devoted to attribution the icon from a private collection (Kyiv) which prior was not investigated, an Orthodox icon with a rare iconography of the saint with the head of a best. Such iconographic type occurs in Orthodox art tradition only in case if the image of the holy Martyr Christopher (the III century) is depicted. This saint is venerated by both the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. There were several options for the image of St. Christopher in Byzantine art, the image as a youth, the martyr in a red himation with a cross in his hand or dresses as a warrior with a sword on horseback. Influenced by legends of zoomorphic form of Christopher in Byzantium the most unusual and interesting iconography of the saint which represents him with a canine head was comprised. The oldest of these images are dated to the VI-VII centuries. In Western artistic tradition of the XIV-XVI centuries Saint Christopher is portrayed as a man of immense height, bearing Jesus Christ on his shoulders (the name of the saint means in Late Greek "the one who carries Christ" or "bearing Christ"). In Orthodox art, images of St. Christopher with Christ on his shoulders are also can be found in the murals of the XIV – XV centuries in churches in Bulgaria and Serbia and monasteries of Mount Athos. Veneration of St. Christopher started in Old Russ in the tenth century. One of the earliest depictions of the saint can be found in St. George church in Staraya Ladoga (1170 -80’s) where he is shown as a warrior martyr with a spear and a cross in his hands. Images of St. Christopher with a dog’s head appears in Russian icon painting from the second half of the XVI century. In spite of the rich variety of iconographic characters it was his image that became very popular in Russia. Starting from the XVI – XVII centuries this saint is often depicted in Deacon Gates in iconostases of Russian churches. The image of St. Christopher with a dog’s head can be found in the frescoes of the XVI century in Sviyazhsky Monastery in Saviour’s Transfiguration Cathedral in Yaroslavl in the paintings of the XVII century, in Archangel Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin and Rayifsky and Makarevsky monasteries, in the church of Nickola Mokrogo (Nickolas the Wet) in Yaroslavl. The icons of the XVI century of the saint with the dog’s head are preserved to this day in the Chudov Monastery in Moscow Kremlin, in the collections of museums in Vologda and the State Historical Museum in Moscow as well as the icons of the XVII century from the museum collections of Yehoriyevsk, Cherepovets and Rostov. After the ban of the canine image by Synod in 1722 Christopher was depicted anthropomorphic. But the iconography of the saint as a warrior continued to have a canine head during the following centuries in Old Believers environment. The full length image of martyr St. Christopher is depicted in the icon under study, the icon from a private collection in Kyiv. He appears in the image of cynocephalus that is with a dog’s head which was the most popular iconographic type in Russian iconography. The mouth of the saint with the dog’s head is opened wide and broken into a grin, his long tortuous tongue is pulled out and he shows white teeth but his appearance is quite calm and unmalicious. Martyr Christopher is depicted as a warrior with a spear that blossomed in his raised left hand and in his right hand he holds a large the eight-pointed Orthodox cross with the lower inclined crossbar. The cross is black in color and there are words "Ї Н Ц И" meaning "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" on the upper transverse crossbar. The titles "І_С Х҄_С", i.e. "Jesus Christ" are in the middle of the cross bar. There is a golden circle symbolizing the crown of thorns in the middle of the cross. The icon is framed in a narrow black frame that presents the Ark. An abbreviated inscription made in ornamental lettering that reads like a "The Holy Martyr of Christ Christopher" is on the head margin. The basis of the icon is a wood board (1500 × 450 × 25 mm), rectangular in form which is strongly vertically elongated. The traces of lost fasteners that resemble door loops in shape are noticeable on the back of the icon. The icon is painted by oil paints; there are no primer and canvas. The paint is applied with a thin layer without retouching. The technological features of this icon indicate the later period of its creation, i.e. the XIX century. Although the stylistic features of the images tend to Russian icon painting tradition of the XVII century we know that icons of St. Christopher with a canine head after the XVIII century were created among the Old Believers who remained true the tradition of the iconography of ancient artistic image techniques. Judging from the shape of the icon board (it is a highly elongated vertical rectangle) and the location of the lost fixtures it can be said that the investigated icon of St. Christopher was an icon of the church iconostasis which once served as Deacon Gates. The icons of the XVIII – XIX centuries from the collections of museums in St. Petersburg are close analogues of this icon. According to the result of the iconographic attribution, analysis of stylistic, design and technological features it has been determined that this work is an icon of the Holy Martyr Christopher and it belongs to the Russian Old Believers’ church images of the XIX century.

  • Issue Year: 2014
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 125-130
  • Page Count: 6
  • Language: Ukrainian