Sensational Discovery: Masterpiece of Novgorod Icon Painting with Goosebump Factor The dissolution of a collection of religious art in Rhineland-Palatinate and its consignment to the auction ‘ART AND ICONS FROM THE ORTHODOX WORLD’ at Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen Düsseldorf brought a mysterious masterpiece of Novgorod icon painting to light – a find that will captivate the art world.
In August 2023, as part of our expert days in Belgium and Luxembourg, I embarked on a matter of inheritance that held a true surprise. What began as an ordinary collection of icons turned into a fascinating journey through the art history of Russia. In our upcoming special auction, we unveil a gem of icon painting that will astonish international experts and collectors alike.
It is a highly significant and museum-quality icon depicting the Crucifixion of Christ from the church iconostasis of Wolotovo near Novgorod, Russia, dating back to around 1470/1480. This artwork is a true treasure of Novgorod icon painting, distinguished by its excellent quality and pristine condition.
Painted on wood, the icon masterfully portrays the Crucifixion of Christ. In the center, the body of Christ is enthroned on the cross, surrounded by classic attendant figures such as the grieving Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene on the left side, and John and Longinus with a red cloak and shield on the right side. Below the cross, the skull of Adam appears, while in the background, the city wall of Jerusalem completes the composition.
What makes this icon so exceptional is not only its artistic magnificence but also the subtle depiction of the suffering of Christ. In contrast to many other representations, this icon emphasizes not the physical suffering but rather the role of Christ as the Savior of humanity, his imminent resurrection, and his victory over death.
Stylistically, this Crucifixion is closely related to five icons currently housed in the museum in Novgorod. These stylistically related works include scenes such as the Procession of the Virgin, the Transfiguration of Christ, the Raising of Lazarus, the Descent into Hell, and the Assumption of the Virgin. All these icons are impressive examples of Novgorod icon painting.
The history of this icon is as fascinating as the artwork itself. Originally, it belonged to the church iconostasis in Wolotovo near Novgorod until it was lost in the turmoil of Russian history after the October Revolution of 1917. The Bolsheviks pursued a policy of desecration and confiscation of church property, leading to the disappearance of many religious artifacts.
Fortunately, there were connoisseurs of Russian culture like Yevgeny Ivanovich Silin, who specialized in documenting and preserving Russian cultural heritage after the Revolution. Silin, once a successful owner of an antique shop, was later appointed an expert at the Historical Museum and undertook many journeys to register museum treasures. During his trip to Wolotovo, he saw the icons currently in the museum, including four others, among them the rediscovered Crucifixion, still in situ, and documented them in his publication on the churches in Novgorod and Pskov. In 1926, the Novgorod Museum received five icons from the Church of the Assumption in the village of Wolotovo near Novgorod. What happened to the other four icons described by Silin remains unknown, which is why they are considered lost today.
We now have the honor and immense joy of offering this exceptional icon in our auction catalog with a starting price of 5,000 euros, and we will be auctioning it from November 9th to 11th. We are confident that this masterpiece of icon painting will fetch multiples of this starting price, likely reaching the six-figure range.
This icon is not only an invaluable work of art but also a fascinating piece of history. Acquiring it means preserving a piece of Russian culture and religious tradition. This masterpiece of icon painting, which will undoubtedly capture the hearts of collectors and art enthusiasts alike, has a truly spine-chilling factor.
ART & ICONS FROM THE ORTHODOX WORLD
Thursday, 09 November 2023 | 10 am CET (Lot 1 – 787)
Friday, 10 November 2023 | 10 am CET (Lot 788 – 1840)
Saturday, 11 November 2023 | 10 am CET (Lot 1841 – 2906)
Saturday, 04 November 2023: 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday, 05 November 2023: 10 am – 5 pm
Monday, 06 November 2023 – Wednesday, 08 November 2023: 10 am – 6.30 pm