Russian icon | Portrait of a Monk Saint

Icon: Portrait of a Monk Saint E-4

Russia, late 16th century (vrezka)
Tempera on panel, 30.8 x 26 cm

Boris Bakhmeteff (1880-1951), Russian ambassador to the United States
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Humanities Fund Inc., 1972
Inv. No. 1972.145.18
Deaccession Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2019
Morsink Icon Gallery, Amsterdam
ALR Ref. No.: S00158669

Katharine Baetjer, European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art
by Artists Born before 1865: A Summary Catalogue, 1995, p. 177

The icon is a fragment of a larger icon, set into another panel (vrezka). The image shows the face of a Russian monk saint, who wears a simple, purple-brown monk’s habit and a traditional dark blue hood with the instruments of the Passion depicted on it in red. This garment, the Great Schima, is the sign of distinction for monks who reach the highest level of asceticism.

The saint’s face is painted in a refined style. The beard and hair are sensitively modelled with fine white highlights. The calm, piercing eyes, small mouth and thin nose represent the refining of the senses away from the materialistic to the spiritual world. The monk’s face suggest virtues such as purity, encouragement, forgiveness, compassion and love.