Russian icon | Triptych with the Dormition, Anastasis and Pokrov of the Mother of God

Icon: Triptych with the Dormition, Anastasis and Pokrov of the Mother of God E-14

Russia, Volga-region, second half 17th century
Tempera on panel, original silver basma with natural stones, 34 x 12 cm (open)

Private collection, France
Morsink Icon Gallery, Amsterdam
ALR Ref. No.: S00159103


The triptych was used as a travelling icon, intended for private devotion. The well preserved, original basma consists of simple plain strokes of silver, embellished with natural stones in various colours. The icon is painted in a characteristic style in deep, warm earth colors. Red, ocher, green and silver tones dominate the colour palette. The iconography and style of the painting point towards the influence of the cities along the river Volga, of which Yaroslavl and Kostroma are most famous. In the 17th century, these cities became important cultural centres. While in Moscow the high nobility and clergy were the main patrons of the icons painters, in Yaroslavl and Kostroma wealthy merchants played an active role in patronage as well.

The left panel of the triptych depicts the Dormition of the Mother of God. The deceased Virgin lies on her deathbed. The apostles stand mournfully on either side of the bed as they pay their last respects. Christ appears in a mandorla, behind his Mother’s deathbed. On his left arm He bears Mary’s soul, in the form of a swaddled child, ready to carry her to Paradise. In the upper part of the image, the apostels are arriving on clouds fort he gathering. In front of the stately bed, the legendary tale of the high priest Jephonias is depicted. Jephonias planned to knock over the bed but his hands were swiftly cut off by the prompt intervention of the Archangel Michael. After his conversion to Christianity, Jephonias was given back his hands. The central panel represents the Resurrection of Christ. The Saviour is descending into hell, crushing the gates of Hades with his feet, while rescuing Adam and Eve together with groups of other Old Testament figures. The right panel shows two miraculous legends, both of which are said to have taken place in Constantinople: the appearance of the Mother of God with a veil (Pokrov) and the miracle of St Romanos Melodos, one of the greatest hymn writers of the Byzantine church, who lived in the 6th century.