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Temple Gallery

Established 1959

Entry into Jerusalem - exhibited at the Temple Gallery, specialists in Russian icons

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E042. Entry into Jerusalem

Greek, Cretan School
17th century
Tempera on gold and gesso on wood
Panel: 34 x 30.5 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

Provenance:  Art market France (auction)

Condition:  Good condition with only minor abrasions and repairs commensurate with age.

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The Entry into Jerusalem, known in the west as Palm Sunday, is one of the major feasts of the church. The ancestry of the design can be traced to Byzantine icons and beyond that to miniature ivory carving. Already in the tenth century, all the elements of the composition are present in detail. The iconography owes its ultimate origin to the imperial Roman adventus – the visit of the emperor, or a high ranking official of the state to a city. The higher the rank of the visitor the further out of the city came the officials and citizens to greet him. According to the gospel account (John 12; 12-13, Matt. 21;8, Mark 11; 1-10, Luke 19; 29-38) Christ enters in triumph with the citizens bearing palm branches and crying ‘hosanna’. Children are shown climbing the tree to cut down the branches but they are not mentioned in the gospel texts. The event is the beginning of the Passion cycle.

Our icon follows closely the imagery developed in Constantinople in the late Palaeologan period. One group, showing Christ and his entourage entering from the right, is discussed in detail by Maria Vassilakis in ‘An icon of the Entry into Jerusalem and a Question of Archetypes, Prototypes and Copies in Late and Post-Byzantine Icon-Painting’ in the Painter Angelos and Icon-Painting in Venetian Crete, Ashgate Variorum, 209, pp. 285-303 (fig a). The more usual arrangement, however, is to show Christ entering from the left with the city of Jerusalem on the right as we see in the present example. This can be seen in any number of Russian icons of the 15th century – the period when Russian art was most strongly influenced by Byzantium (fig. c). It is also the type for the celebrated icon, twice passed through the Temple Gallery, and today in Romania (fig. b). The present example shares with the Romanian one the pronounced sense of the city’s enclosure within its walls. Our painter employs a similar scheme of colours for the compact cityscape as well as the strongly contrasted reds and blues of the citizens issuing from the gates.

Fig. a Entry into Jerusalem, 15th century Cretan School, private collection, London

Fig. b Entry into Jerusalem, 15th century, Cretan School, Private collection, Romania Fig. c Entry into Jerusalem, 15th century Novgorod, ‘Sofia Tablets’ series, Novgorod Museum

For dating, our icon can be compared with the manner of rendering faces – they are wider and more naturalistic than those of the earlier period with warm colours against a dark ground – with an icon of the Descent into Hell in Thessaloniki published by Baltoyanni in Icons, Demetrios Ekonomopoulos Collection, Delis, 1986, Pl. 67 (fig. d) dated to the 17th century.

No. 42, detail Fig. d Descent into Hell, Ekonomopoulos Collection, detail

Detail Images