Greek icon | St Andreas

Icon: St Andreas A-3

Crete, first half 16th century
Tempera on wood, 38.3 x 29.1 cm

Private Collection, France
Private collection, Germany
ALR Ref. No.: S00151365

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Simon Morsink

Against a gold ground, the apostle St Andrew is represented half-length, facing the viewer. He is wearing a blue chiton, highlighted with white, a dark green himation with heavy black folds, accentuated by greenish grey stokes. The apostle is holding a closed scroll in his left hand together with a thin, elongated, finely worked cross. With his right hand, he makes a sign of blessing. Following Byzantine iconography, the saint has wavy greyish white hair, dishevelled with straggling wispy ends and a beard. His face, modelled with great plasticity, has a pronounced fleshy nose, large piercing eyes, and dark red lips. The deep shadows under the eyes and on the cheeks bear witness of intense spirituality. The icon in all probability comes from the apostle row of a small iconostasis.
St Andrew is a known subject in the 16th and 17th-century Cretan icon painting. Examples are a standing St Andrew from the early 17th century, signed by Jeremias Palladas in the Canellopoulos Museum in Athens (Chatzidakis 2007, pp. 296, 297; cat. no.  166) and an icon with the depiction of St Andrew half-length in the Ekonomopoulos Collection, now in the Byzantine Museum of Thessaloniki  (Baltoyanni  1986, p. 38, cat. no. 35). An interesting icon for comparison is the half-length St Andrew, dating from 1546 and painted for the iconostasis of the Stavronikita Monastery on Mount Athos by the famous painter Theophanes the Cretan (Arell 2006, p. 55, cat. no. A.7), which has the same colour scheme as our icon. However, the iconographic model of another St Andrew-icon of approximately the same size, currently in Ravenna, Italy (Martinelli 1982, pp. 266, 267, cat. no. 159), is more like our panel. The strict frontal position of the figure, the unusual position of St Andrew's blessing right hand which sticks out from underneath his mantle and the left hand holding a closed scroll, are all similar. The Ravenna panel, however, lacks the elongated cross and has the figures of the Virgin and Christ added in the upper left and right corner. Moreover, the Ravenna icon is dated to the 17th century and has been painted in a simpler style. It lacks the Cretan vigour and powerful expressivity of our St Andrew-icon, which can be dated to the first half or the middle of the 16th century.

Arell 2006
Berndt Arell, Athos - Monastic Life of the Holy Mountain, Helsinki 2006
Baltoyanni 1986
Chr. Baltoyanni, Icons. Demetrios Ekonomopoulos Collection, Athens 1986
Chatzidakis 2007
N. Chatzidakis, The Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos Museum: Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art, Athens 2007
Martinelli 1982
P. Martinelli, Le Icone della Collezione Classense di Ravenna, Bologna 1982