Russian icon | Anastasis

Icon: Anastasis B-2

Russia, Moscow, second half 16th century (vrezka)
Tempera on panel, 36 x 30 cm

Private collection, Germany
Morsink Icon Gallery, Amsterdam
ALR Ref. No.: S00153381

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The icon for the Anastasis, the Feast of All Feasts, surpasses all others in significance. It is this image that allows the icon painter to express the essence of the Resurrection: to transcend death and save all those who have been waiting for salvation since the days of Adam. 

The title of the icon is written in gold in Church Slavonic just below the upper border of the icon: Icon of the Resurrection of God Our Jesus Christ (Obraz Voskreshenie Boga Nashego Isusa Christa). The icon was painted in a 'continuing style', which means that the different scenes more or less flow seamlessly into one another. Christ is pictured in the centre, surrounded by a blue mandorla, wearing a golden robe. He crushes the gates of hell with both feet. Behind these gates lies a dark pit. With his right hand Christ raises Adam from the grave, the first mortal to be thus released from Hades. In his other hand He holds a closed scroll. Eve is kneeling down in order to kiss the right foot of her Saviour. Her hands are veiled as a sign of respect. 

From the large red head of Hades to the left, a crowd of 'white souls' appear. They follow in the footsteps of the 'chorus of forefathers and prophets' which is on its way to Paradise. Among them are  Noah holding a boat, the kings David and Salomon, St John the Forerunner and Moses holding the Stone Tablets. In the lower left corner of the icon two angels are holding golden chains in order to shackle Satan, who is ordered to be banished to Hades, so he may no longer threaten the human race. To the right a frightened red monster is looking at the scene. Behind, Henoch and St John are looking at the approaching ‘army of angels’. 

In the lower right corner, Christ rises from the tomb, surrounded by a large blue mandorla, holding a cross with both his hands. A large group of sleeping Roman soldiers is just wakening up. Just above the Resurrection scene Christ greets the Repentant Thief within the walled paradise and hands over his own cross to bear for protection. 

In the upper right corner of the icon, the Repentant Thief is standing in front of the doors of the walled Paradise, guarded by a red cherub. At the far left within the paradise gardens, the prophets Enoch and Elijah, welcome the Repentant Thief. In the next scene the Thief welcomes the other saints who enter Paradise.  

The icon was painted for private devotion. Domestic icons were venerated in the ‘beautiful’ or ‘red corner’ of the house. The style of painting is closely linked to Moscow painting from the second half of the 16th century. The aristocratic style of the paintwork, the lavish use of gold, the warm, glowing colours and the complex iconography, all point in this direction. In the 19th century the icon has been restored and set into another panel, in all probability in an Old-Believers workshop.