Russian icon | Portrait Icon of St Nicholas

Icon: Portrait Icon of St Nicholas K-4

Russia, Pskov-region, mid-16th century
Tempera on panel 31 x 23.5 cm

Private Collection, Germany
Morsink Icon Gallery, Amsterdam
ALR Ref. No: S00202160

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St Nicholas is portrayed from the shoulders upwards. As a bishop St Nicholas wears the white stole (omophorion) with embroidered black crosses, wrapped around his shoulders. The distinctive features of the saint are his high, balding forehead (a sign of his goodness and erudition), the short grey hair and the full, round beard. The face is not painted from nature, but strongly stylised and characterised by a high degree of graphic intensity. St Nicholas is not a human being of flesh and blood any more, but a saint, already ascended in the spiritualised world of God. The domed head seems to fill up the whole area, giving an impression of closeness and immediacy, which heightens the viewer’s awareness of the saint.

This expressive small icon was intended for private devotion. The relatively dark painted face of the saint and the distinctive graphic motif engraved in the levkas of the gilded aureole, point towards an origin from Pskov and a dating in the second half of the 16th century.