Icons: Images for the soul


 Icons have always been in demand at NEUMEISTER. With about 50 items from a private collection in southern Germany, all from the 18th and 19th century, the offer of devotional pictures in the September auction is exceptionally large this time.

Die Hl. Vierzig Märtyrer von Sebaste
Rußland, 19. Jh.
Einzug Christi in Jerusalem
Rußland, um 1800

Jesus and Mary, apostles and saints in bright colors. A sky of gold leaf shimmers in the background. The imagery is reduced, the motifs applied two-dimensionally. Icons serve primarily for Orthodox Christians as mediators between the earthly and the divine. Mostly painted in small format on wood, the depicted saints are touchable for believers and thus can be experienced directly. The predominantly frontal view of the protagonists also establishes a direct relationship between the viewer and the viewed. Understood in this way, icons are images for the soul, inviting metaphysical dialogue.

Die Enthauptung Johannes des Vorläufers
Rußland, 18. Jh., Schule von Palech
Ikone mit der Erscheinung der Gottesmutter Pokrow und die Legende des Hl. Romanos
Rußland (Palech), 18. Jh.

 The word "icon" comes from the ancient Greek eikṓn, meaning "picture" or "image." "Icon" and "emoticon" also derive from this word origin. The icon developed from the tradition of ancient cult images showing the dead, emperors or gods. In the 6th century in Byzantium, they became awe-inspiring symbols of state power. And increasingly, the Eastern emperor saw himself as the object of ritual, godlike worship. But was it appropriate at all to make an image of the divine? In the 8th and 9th centuries, the image dispute between the Byzantine emperor and the Christian churches raged over this question. Clarification came with the 2nd Council of Nicaea in 787 AD, which legitimized the veneration of icons. From then on, holy images became an integral part of Eastern Orthodoxy. The demand increased enormously, a lively trade with the holy pictures began. Everything was in demand - from large formats several meters high to small pieces, some of them decorated with gold, precious stones and ivory, for private devotion. 

Festtagsikone mit der Höllenfahrt Christi und zwölf Randbildern
Rußland, 18. Jh.
Kreuzigung Christi umringt von 12 Passionsszenen
Rußland, 18. Jh.

Icon painting experienced its first heyday in the 6th and 7th centuries in the Byzantine region. And after Grand Duke Vladimir I was baptized by Greek priests in 988, it developed into an independent art in Russia. Western Europe became aware of images of saints from the East at the beginning of the 18th century, but it was only between the two world wars that they gradually reached the West in the 20th century. Then, in the early Federal Republic, more and more art enthusiasts became involved with the hand-painted wooden images, until demand reached its temporary peak in the 1970s and 1980s.

Verkündigung der Hl. Gottesmutter
Rußland, 17. Jh.
Vierfelderikone - Geburt des Hl. Johannes, Mariä Verkündigung, Darbringung im Tempel, Gottesmutter Pokrow
Rußland, 19. Jh.

Today it has become a little quieter around the devotional pictures, but their timeless beauty and the meditative character can hardly escape. Those interested in art are more fascinated by the charming aesthetics, with imagery that seems both familiar and foreign, than by the religious context - especially since the timeless beauties blend in with both classical and modern living concepts. Last but not least, icons are also interesting as investments. The devotional pictures have established themselves on the art market as worthwhile collector's items and achieve top prices at auctions.

 

 

Die sieben Tage der Woche (Sedmiza)
Rußland, 19. Jh.