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http://en.rian.ru/culture/20080522/108121194.html

Christie's to hold record sale of Orthodox icons in London

22/05/2008 18:05 MOSCOW, May 22 (RIA Novosti) - Over 230 Orthodox
icons and artefacts due to go under the hammer on June 9 are expected to fetch around 5 million pounds ($10 million), a representative from Christie's of London said on Thursday.

The auction: "Icons and Artefacts from the Orthodox World" will
feature over 230 lots, including Greek and Russian icons, church and religious artefacts dated between the 15th-20th centuries.

"This is the most valuable icon sale ever organized in the
international market and is expected to fetch in the region of five million pounds ($10 million)," Christie's said on its website.

A 19th century Gospel Book, bearing the initials of Grand Duke
Alexander Romanov, the son-in-law of Tsar Alexander III is expected to fetch $70,000-90,000.

A large number of rare Russian narrative icons, depicting a Biblical story or the life of a saint through a sequence of episodes are due to be sold in the auction. A late 15th century icon, "The Infancy of Christ," is thought to be the most valuable in this category, with a guide price around $160,000-240,000.

The 17th century "The Adoration of the Mother of God" commissioned by Maxim Stroganov, the family that was responsible for establishing the Stroganov School of icon painting in north Russia in the 16th century, is expected to fetch $80,000-120,000. The icon can be directly linked to the family of rich Russian merchants and industrialists and was traditionally used during wedding ceremonies.

The auction will also feature 19th century Russian icons, including a large selection in gold and silver oklads, including a rare pair of wedding icons, valued at $80,000-120,000, painted by Pavel Ovchinnikov, the main competition for Russian jeweler, Peter Carl Faberge.




This upsets me that icons may be bought as "works of art" by some. I wish there was a Foundation set up to buy icons and then donate the icons to churches in which the icons will be venerated.

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I wonder if some of these icons and liturgical items were stolen by evil forces and thus made available for this auction. None of these items should be offered for sale.

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I agree with both of you. These icons should be in churches.

I think the illegal removal of historical icons from Russia is still going on.

Does anyone here know if the catalogue for the sale is online?

Halia

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Well Halia, I am not sure if this sale is the one mentioned in the article or not. I guess this shows my lack of sophistication but I am totally new to art auctions and even Christie's.
I found the online catalogue for an aution in London on Monday June 9th at KING STREET, London called "Icons and Artefacts From The Orthodox World"

http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/...&intSaleID=21517&selectedids=487

Just to give you an example of what I would do if I had the money: I would buy these 16th century Royal Doors and donate them to a church that needs them:

A PAIR OF ROYAL DOORS DEPICTING THE ANNUNCIATION

ESTIMATE
£40,000 - £60,000
($78,560 - $117,840)


A PAIR OF ROYAL DOORS DEPICTING THE ANNUNCIATION

NORTHERN GREEK, 16TH CENTURY

The angel wearing a cinnabar chiton and a luminous light-pink himation, his wings rendered in brown and shades of blue, with a diadem resting on his curly hair, holding a sceptre, advancing from the left towards the Mother of God, his right hand blessing her; the latter dressed in the traditional blue chiton and deep red maphorion, standing on a suppedaneum in front of a backless throne with cushions, holding a skein of red wool, bending slightly forward, her hand raised in speech, one of the celestial rays containing the Holy Spirit beaming towards the Mother of God; the robust figures delineated by the clinging drapery, the serene faces painted with a brown base, the features formed with rosy shades and white highlights, against a terracotta and deep green background
48¼ x 30½ in. (120.25 x 70.7 cm)

http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=5086525

You can see the picture and even Zoom in on it if you go to the web site.

I am also wondering what will happen to these Royal Doors? Will they just become an "object d'art" in some rich man's home? Will they be treated with respect as sacred items?

Orest





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It's ok, my accountant and I are attending the auction and plan on purchasing all items. Hopefully they get that flat tire on my Leer Jet fixed soon or I'll have to take the Bombardier Citation jet (the plasma screen tv is smaller, ugh!).

You know it would be interesting to see exactly WHO buys many of these items. Seeing how Prince Charles is affectionate towards his Greek father's roots... maybe he'll go home with a few items.

Of course these should still be in churches. Too bad we're not rich enough to buy them all back.

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You know it would be interesting to see exactly WHO buys many of these items. Seeing how Prince Charles is affectionate towards his Greek father's roots... maybe he'll go home with a few items.


Well from this article it looks like President Yushchenko is collecting icons, but not the sort I would want in my home. I wonder if he collects his icons as "folk Art", an economic investment or for spiritual reasons?

Quote
http://context.themoscowtimes.com/print.php?aid=185310

Iconic Perspectives

An exhibition of icons raises political and religious issues. Marina
Kamenev reports.

By Marina Kamenev
Published: May 23, 2008

A walk through the first floor of The State Tretyakov Gallery makes
clear the central position that icons played in the genesis of
Russian fine arts. Not just because of the huge number of icons in
Russian history but also because of the influence that they exerted
on the next generation of painters. Early portraits of royalty, for
example, were painted with static hands and placid faces.

Two of Moscow's biggest museums, the State Tretyakov Gallery and the
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts are exhibiting two very different
collections of icons. "Orthodox Icons from Russia, Ukraine and
Belarus" will open at the Tretyakov on Thursday, while the Pushkin
Museum of Fine Arts is currently displaying the private collection of
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko in an exhibition called "At the
Altar of Time: Sculpture and Folk Icons from the 19th century."

The lands of modern-day Ukraine were the birthplace of Russian
Orthodoxy among the Kievan Rus, the predecessors of the three modern
nations of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Vladimir, the grand prince of
Kiev, brought Christianity to the Rus from Byzantium in 988A.D. Over
the following centuries, the church grew in wealth and prestige, in
particular benefiting from tax exemptions after the Mongol invasion
of 1237-40. The invasion accelerated the decline of the loose
association of principalities that made up Kievan Rus and the growth
of regional centers. The church, as today, was an important political
tool in the struggles for power between these centers, and the
transfer of the Metropolitanate to Moscow in 1325 was closely
connected with the city's rise to power.

The exhibition at the Tretyakov brings together icons from the
countries that developed from Kievan Rus. The exhibition places
emphasis on the shared roots of these nations, a hot topic given
recent moves in Ukraine to create a unified Ukrainian Orthodox
Church, separate from the Russian Orthodox Church. Alexy II, who is
the current patriarch of Moscow and all Rus and has written for the
exhibition catalogue, is vehemently opposed to a schism.

One of the oldest icons on display at the Tretyakov Gallery is that
of Prince Vladimir. Painted in the early 15th century, he is barefoot
and elongated. His hands are outstretched and his face full of
sorrow. It is unknown where this icon was found, but it has always
been a permanent part of the Tretyakov's collection.

Nadezhda Bekyonova, head of ancient Russian art at the Tretyakov,
said the Rus did not have their own icons until the 12th century. "We
had icons imported from Byzantium. Only later did Russians start
painting their own icons. You can see that the Russian icons have
warmer, kinder faces."

The exhibition is a first-time collaboration with the National
Kiev-Pechersk Cultural Historical Preserve in Ukraine and the
National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus. The exhibition will
also travel to the other two museums later in the year.

Bekyonova said the icons from the three countries were very similar
but that their geographical positions gave rise to some differences.
"Ukraine and Belarus were territorially closer to the West so their
icons had Baroque influence in the 15th and 16th centuries. Russia
didn't have Baroque influences until well into the 17th century."

One of the icons from Belarus is "The Savior on the Throne of the
Great Bishop." Jesus is raised in the clouds on a golden chair with a
red stand. His fingers are poised to make the sign of the cross.
Clouds tinged with pink surround him. His robe is lush and vibrant,
decorated by gold and flowers, and a circle of gold radiates from his crown.

The elaborate style and rich colors in later Belarus icons came from
the influence of their Catholic neighbors in Poland. Furniture and a
sense of perspective are also signs of the Baroque influence.

In comparison, a Russian icon of Archangel Michael from Novgorod is
much simpler. The robes worn by the apostles are not decorated, and
the horses are leaping in and out of a flat gold background. The
apostles themselves are suspended in space with no reference point or
perspective visible.

Alina Loginova, curator of the exhibition at the Pushkin, explained
that icons purposefully lacked one-point perspective.

"When you look at a Renaissance painting, the objects that are
further away appear smaller. But icons, with their gold backgrounds
and what I call a reverse perspective, are supposed to make you feel
small, because you are standing in front of God."

Icons are considered holy objects and taught biblical stories to the
illiterate, which was most of the population. Most of the craftsmen
remained anonymous: "It wouldn't even occur to the masters to add
their names to the paintings," Loginova said. "Why would they put
their sinful names next to something that belonged to God our maker?"

The most famous icon master was Andrei Rublyov, whose authorship of
major works we are aware of from chronicles. Born near Moscow in the
late 14th century, Rublyov decorated the frescos in the Cathedral of
the Annunciation in the Kremlin and was canonized in the late 1980s.

One of the works rumored to be his is a nativity scene from the late
15th century. Three wise men appear on horseback in the top left
corner, and various events that refer to the birth of Christ surround
the baby Jesus.

The icons on display at the Pushkin are very different. The
19th-century iconographers who created the works from Yushchenko's collection are called "bogomazami," or "God smearers."
"These were villagers, they were untrained in painting, so what they did was not even called painting but smearing, they were just peasants that had a gift for art," Loginova said.

Unlike the rich icons in the Tretyakov, there is no gold leaf in
these works. Instead, there are bright colors, decorative patterns and no attempt at three dimensions.

One of the icons is drawn in a bright, primitive style that brings to mind the work of Henri Matisse. A bright green background is painted on to the glass, and a naively drawn Mary appears on the panel, holding the baby Jesus. Primary colored flowers adorn the scene, and the figure that Mary is holding is a miniature but grown-up Jesus with a crown and full head of hair.

"Technically, all paintings of religious figures are icons in one way or another, but they are painted in different ways," Loginova said. "There is symbolism within them so that you can recognize each figure."

"If they are wearing a long shirt and a robe it is usually an
apostle, whereas if it's Prince Vladimir, he always wears a red cloak thrown over his shoulders," she said.

"Even in very simple drawings, St. Paul will always have a beard,
receding hairline and high forehead, while St. Peter has a full head of white hair and a very thick beard."

Another specific feature of icons is the way they are painted. "They are painted in the same order as the way God created earth," Bekyonova said. The gold background is painted first representing light, then any nature, then animals. "After the background is finished, the clothes of the figure are painted and the absolute last thing the master paints is the face, because God created man last."

The similarities of the icons mean that even the experts have trouble telling the saints apart. "It's like when very young children are wearing clothes and you can't tell which is a boy or which is a girl.
There are differences in their face but you have to look closely," Loginova said. "The tiny differences are there, but you have to know where to look. It's a visual language."

"Orthodox Icons from Russia Ukraine and the Belarus" runs from May 29 to 13 July at the Tretyakov Gallery V Tolmachakh, located at 6 Maly Tolmachyovsky Pereulok. Metro Tretyakovskaya. Tel. 230-7788,
951-1362, 238-1378.

"At the Altar of Time: Sculpture and Folk Icons from the 19th
Century" runs to May 31 at The Museum of Private Collections the
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, located at 10 Ulitsa Volkhonka. Tel. 203-1546






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The bogomazami icons remind me of Ethiopian icons.

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Most of the Orthodox Icons currently on sale anywhere in world have their origins in the land of the former Soviet Union (Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, ...). They were stolen by the Soviet regime and sold on the open 'art' markets mostly in the 1920's and 1930's, but also continually since that time - sadly - even since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Not only have icons been stolen by the Communists, but also other religious objects such as bells. Harvard University purchased a set of Monastery bells from Russia at the height of Communist destruction. These bells were recently returned to the Monastery and the campus simply purchased a new set here in North America. Sadly, there are few religious objects which can be so easily traced to their owners. Even if they could, I'm not sure most owners would be willing to return them to their original owners as did Harvard University.

I.F.

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Questions of ownership aside, I wonder if grace will work in the soul of the buyers of these "art pieces".

Terry

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Dear Terry,

No chance - it's just old art that they hope will appreciate in value over time so that they can make a profit.

I.f.

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I wonder if some of these icons and liturgical items were stolen by evil forces and thus made available for this auction. None of these items should be offered for sale.

I am pleased to report that sometimes holy icons for sale at Sotheby's or Christie's are returned to the Orthodox Church.
See this article about the return of icons to Cyprus:
Quote
Byzantine Icons Returned January 22, 2007
by Mark Rose

An American foundation hands over centuries-old religious artworks.

A ceremony at the Consulate General of Cyprus in New York on January 10 marked the return of six stolen Byzantine icons to the Church of Cyprus. The repatriation was amicable, with the Charles Pankow Foundation voluntarily giving the icons to the Church. The Foundation, based in Ontario, California, had consigned the icons to Sotheby's in 2005. Hearing of the proposed sale, the Cypriot government intervened and through its Washington embassy requested that the sale in New York be halted, maintaining that the lawful owner was the Church of Cyprus.

Saint Peter (left) and Saint Paul (right), fourteenth century, from the Church of Panaghia Asinou near Nikitari village


The importance of the occasion was underscored by the presence of Andreas Kakouris, ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the United States, the Metropolitan of Morfou from the Church of Cyprus, and Martha Mavrommatis, the consul-general of Cyprus in New York, as well as Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America.

The icons being returned are

Three that were located at the Bishopric of the Holy Metropolis of Kyrenia up until the Turkish occupation in 1974.These include one depicting the Virgin Hodegetria ("Mother of God") of thirteenth or fourteenth century date from the Bishopric of the Holy Metropolis of Kyrenia, and two fourteenth-century icons from the Church of Panaghia Asinou. Painted by the same artist, these two show Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

A thirteenth-century icon of Saints Andronikos and Athanasia from the Chapel of Saints Andronikos and Athanasia at Kalopanayiotis village. This was reported as stolen in the book The Icons of Cyprus, which was published in 1937.

And two that have been determined to be of Cypriot style and Church property, though their exact provenience is unknown. These are a thirteenth-century depiction of Theotokos Glykofilousa ("Mother of God") and a fifteenth-sixteenth-century depiction of Gabriel.


Saints Andronikos and Athanasia, thirteenth century, from the Chapel of Saints Andronikos and Athanasia at Kalopanayiotis village
According to a joint Cypriot-Pankow Foundation statement, Sotheby's informed the Foundation of the claim. "The Pankow Foundation, after reviewing the material presented by representatives of the Government and the Church of Cyprus, came to an agreement with the Church." The details of the agreement were not disclosed, but the Foundation apparently returned the icons directly to the Church rather than through an intermediary nonprofit organization (a tactic used to facilitate antiquities returns in other cases). Some reimbursement of costs incurred by the Foundation was made, but this was not apparently a "finders" fee or compensation for the purchase price of the icons paid by Charles J. Pankow, who established the Foundation in 2004.

The history of the icons after their theft in Cyprus remains obscure. The joint statement merely notes that "Mr. Pankow purchased these six icons in the 1980s either at auction or from art dealers, and later donated them to the Foundation, without knowledge of any claim against them." A little more can be gleaned from the website of the Charles Pankow Foundation. Pankow (1923-2004), a prominent engineer and builder, supported healthcare and medical research and educational institutions and "was well known as a connoisseur of the arts, having established a considerable collection of ancient Egyptian, Chinese and Russian artifacts. He amassed one of the largest private collections of Russian and Greek icons in the United States." But beyond Pankow being an avid collector of such works and the "1980s" date we just don't know. At the return ceremony, the emphasis was strictly on the cooperative nature of the agreement, and all parties clearly wished to leave it at that. There was no public discussion of the trail of the icons from Cyprus to the auction houses and dealers who sold them to Pankow.

Theotokos Glykofilousa (left), thirteenth century, Cypriot-style painting; Saint Gabriel (right), fifteenth-sixteenth centuries, Cypriot-style painting


However, Ambassador Kakouris told ARCHAEOLOGY that when necessary Cyprus would pursue its claims aggressively. Cyprus and the Cypriot Church have shown a willingness to go the distance in courts in the past. For example, four sixth-century mosaics from Kankariá were recovered after a 1989 court case in Indianapolis. Litigation continues in efforts to recover artifacts and religious artworks in Munich, which were among the depredations of smuggler Aydin Dikman, who was responsible for much of the pillage in northern Cyrpus following the Turkish occupation in 1974. In other instances, Cyprus has shown flexibility, allowing Byzantine frescoes--also among the works stripped from churches by Dikman--to remain on long-term loan at the De Menil Foundation in Texas. (For these cases, see "From Cyprus to Munich.")



Virgin Hodegetria, thirteenth or fourteenth century), from the Bishopric of the Holy Metropolis of Kyrenia
The recovery of the icons comes at a time when Cyprus is requesting that the United States continue import restrictions on Classical and Pre-Classical archaeological materials and on Byzantine ecclesiastical objects from Cyprus under the UNESCO Convention. This request is supported by the Archaeological Institute of America. In a letter to the Cultural Properties Advisory Committee, a presidentially appointed group that reviews such requests, outgoing AIA president Jane Waldbaum states that Cyprus' "rich archaeological heritage continues to be threatened by the extensive looting and plundering of archaeological sites to feed the illicit antiquities market." Furthermore, Waldbaum notes that Cyprus has been open to numerous joint archaeological projects between Cypriot and American scholars and students and that bilateral agreements such as the one under consideration foster this cooperative atmosphere. For the full text of the letter, see www.archaeological.org.

Mark Rose is Online Editorial Director, Archaeological Institute of America.


© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America
www.archaeology.org/online/features/cyprusicons


I am presently reading a book about the 1989 theft of mosaics from Cyprus: Goldberg's Angel : An Adventure in the Antiquities Trade by Dan Hofstadter, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994.

The journal Archeology issue April 1998 had a major article on the theft of the Cyprus mosaics which you can read online here:
http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/cyprus/

The number of church icons and articfacts looted is unbelievable:
Quote
Following the occupation of northern Cyprus by Turkish forces in 1974, looters stripped the region's churches, removing an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 icons; several dozen major frescoes and mosaics dating from the sixth to the fifteenth century; and thousands of chalices, wooden carvings, crucifixes, and Bibles. Efforts by the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus have resulted in the return of some of these objects, but the majority remain lost. A major breakthrough came this past October when Munich police arrested 60-year-old Aydin Dikman after he was videotaped selling stolen goods.


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