Temple Gallery

Established 1959

Saint Nicholas - exhibited at the Temple Gallery, specialists in Russian icons

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YY006. Saint Nicholas

Russian, Kholui
Circa 1800
37 x 28.9 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

£1,250Click here to convert price to USD or EUR

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St Nicholas is shown half-length wearing the classical vestments of a bishop. His right hand is raised in an ancient gesture signifying oration (or teaching) and he is holding an open gospel book in his left hand. He looks out towards the viewer. Two roundels - containing Christ on the left (blessing Nicholas) and the Mother of God on the right (holding a veil) – are set either side of the saint's shoulders. Rather than the more common background of gold, here the artist has used silver – including for the saint’s vestments - with an ochre border.

This icon was painted in Kholui,[1] which, along with Palekh and Mstera, was an icon painting centre that produced icons on an industrial scale (sometimes hundreds of icons a day)[2] for pilgrims and the peasantry, and thus was influenced by contemporary Russian folk art. They are simple, humble works, yet 'these popular icons can exude great charm and sincerity', as Wendy R. Salmond writes about the Kholui style.[3]

A very similar icon, also from Kholui, was exhibited at the Temple Gallery in Christmas 2017 (fig. a).

Fig. a. Saint Nicholas, Russian, Kholui, 19th century, The Temple Gallery, Christmas 2017

1. For more information on Kholui and its icon-painting workshops, see Oleg Tarasov, Icon and Devotion: Sacred Spaces in Imperial Russia, (London, Reaktion Books, 2002), esp. Chapter 6, ‘Icons and Popular Art’
2. Wendy R. Salmond, Tradition in Transition: Russian Icons in the Age of the Romanovs, (Washington, Hillwood Galleries, 2004), p. 57
3. Ibid. p. 59