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6 Russian Icons Bursting With Color

As we conclude Easter Week, or Bright Week as it is called in Eastern Orthodox Church, imagery of Christ, the Apostles, the Virgin Mary and all the saints are brought to our mind. In celebrating and honoring these religious depictions, this week’s Russian Icons auction presents a vivid collection of icons.

A highlight of this collection is a 19th century Mother of the Burning Bush icon, which pictures the Mother of God holding Christ at the center of the composition, while the corners are occupied by events related to the biblical story of the Burning Bush. Vividly executed in gesso, gold and tempera, this icon is estimated at $8,000-$12,000.

Mother of the Burning Bushes icon, 19th century, Russia/Palekh, gesso, gold, tempera, 31 x 26 cm. Estimate: $8,000-$12,000. Jasper52 image

 

St. Mary is also represented in the collection by an 18th century Russian icon of the Annunciation, at which the archangel Gabriel announced that she would conceive a child to be born as the Son of God.

Annunciation icon, Russia, 18th century, tempera on wooden board, size 36 x 31 cm. Estimate: $3,000-$5,000. Jasper52 image

 

The baptism of Christ is depicted on two 17th century Russian icons in the auction, on of which is pictured here. Both have $5,000-$7,000 estimates.

Baptism of Christ icon, Russia, circa 1600, tempera on wooden board, 32 x 27 cm. Estimate: $5,000-$7,000. Jasper52 image

 

This 17th or 18th century Russian icon is devoted to the Old Testament Trinity. The detailed image is estimated at $8,000-$10,000.

Old Testament Trinity icon, Russian, 17th-18th century, 27 x 31 cm. Estimate: $8,000-$10,000. Jasper52 image

 

St. John the Apostle & Evangelist, an 18th century Russian icon, about 10.5 by 12.5 inches, expects to deliver $6,000-$8,000.

St. John the Apostle & Evangelist icon, Russian, 18th century, wood, 26 x 31 cm. Estimate: $6,000-$8,000. Jasper52 image

 

A central Russian icon commemorating St. Trifon (Tryphon), who was martyred for his faith, is included in the collection. St. Trifon (d. A.D. 250) acquired fame as a healer, especially of animals. He is particularly invoked on farms and is also the patron saint of gardeners and winegrowers.

Martyr Trifon icon, 19th century, central Russia. two splints in the back. 12 1/4in x 10 1/2in (31 x 27 cm). Estimate: $3,500-$5,000. Jasper52 image

 

The illustrious lives of the saint are celebrated throughout this collection, which can be viewed here.

How to Determine the Value of Religious Icons

Antique religious Icons are an increasingly popular and important collector’s item. Regular auctions of these unique and special items engage collectors both new to the items and veteran collectors. To learn more about these items and the category, we turned to Maxwell Easter of Dennis Easter’s Russian Store.


The question I get the most in my field is what makes an Icon more valuable. What are the characteristics that make one Icon, maybe similar in appearance, sometimes cost thousands of dollars more? It’s true there is a big range in pricing, Icons can be priced anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a couple million dollars but why? To answer this, I have compiled a list of six criteria that influence price. This information will arm you with the knowledge needed to become an educated consumer in the great world of Icons.

Quality

One of the more obvious and most important is the quality of the Icon. How fine is the detail?
How bold are the pigments? How blended are the brush strokes?

Age

The age of the Icon plays an important role in its valuation. Naturally, an Icon from the 15th century will fetch a higher premium in comparison to an Icon from the 19th century, however, there are exceptions.

Rarity

Some scenes, like the classic Christ Pantocrator are more common than others like the Day of Judgement, an Icon I’ve seen only once in my career.

Saint Nicholas, the Wonderworker of Myra, icon painting village of Kholui, Russia, 12 in x 9 in (30 cm x 23 cm). Egg tempera and silvering on gessoed wood. $700. Dennis Easter image

Saint Nicholas, the Wonderworker of Myra, icon painting village of Kholui, Russia, 12 in x 9 in (30 cm x 23 cm). Egg tempera and silvering on gessoed wood. $700. Dennis Easter image

Desirability

Some pieces are just inherently more desirable than others. An image of Saint Nicholas, the patron Saint of Russia, will be more valuable that an Icon of a random Metropolitan or other obscure subjects. Additionally, Icons that have decorative covers called oklads, made of gold and silver with precious and semi-precious stones, are typically worth more.

Condition

Like with anything, condition is important. The better an Icon’s condition the higher the price. This usually holds true but gets complicated based on the personal preference. Some collectors want a piece that has no restoration favoring a more naturally aged look while other collectors would rather have a piece restored to its original condition.

St. Nicholas of Myra with vita, the Evangelists and four border saints - S. Prince Michael, St. Gregory, St, Catherine and St. Justinia, ca. 1870s, icon painting village of Palekh, Russia. 20 1/2 in x 17 in (52 cm x 43 cm). Dennis Easter image

St. Nicholas of Myra with vita, the Evangelists and four border saints – S. Prince Michael, St. Gregory, St, Catherine and St. Justinia, ca. 1870s, icon painting village of Palekh, Russia. 20 1/2 in x 17 in (52 cm x 43 cm). $25,000. Dennis Easter image

Region

The finest Icons were produced by Iconographers from certain communities referred to as “schools.” Often monasteries, these centers for Iconography specialized in their own adopted styles. An Icon from the famous Palekh School will be much more expensive than an Icon from a small rural village.

Provenance

Finally, the history of the piece can play an important role in its valuation. If the Icon was from a particular collection, spent time in a museum and or once belonged to royalty, the piece can skyrocket in value.

For a beginning collector, understanding the value of an Icon can be bewildering. It’s better to start small. One would rather make a $300 mistake than a $30,000 mistake. Allow yourself time to find your own taste, explore the world of Icons, study the history and understand the value of an Icon through the application of these seven criteria listed. Most importantly, if it speaks to you buy it because no Icon is exactly alike and you might never find it again.

 

View this week’s Religious Icons auction and discover your new treasure.


Maxwell Easter is an expert in antique Russian icons and Catholic relics. He manages sales and public relations at Dennis Easter’s Russian Store out of West Palm Beach, Florida.