A fine and scarce Russian icon of Saints Boris and Gleb painted in the Vologda region of Russia in the mid-nineteenth century. The icon depicts the two saints on horseback, and is inscribed with the saints' names written in red in old Slavonic in the gold border at the top of the icon.
Height 12.5”/31.7cm, Width: 8.75”/22.8cm, Depth: 0.8”/2.5cm.
Condition is excellent antique. There is a fine surface cracleur with scattered minor areas of loss. Otherwise condition is commensurate with age and usage.
Boris and Gleb were the younger children of Prince Vladimir the Great (958-1015), the Prince of Novgorod, and the Grand Prince of Kiev. They were both murdered supposedly under the instigation of Sviatopolk the Accursed upon the latter's accession to the throne. They received the crown of martyrdom in 1015 when they became known as "Strastoteptsy", the Passion Bearers, since they did not resist evil with violence. Their relics were housed in the Church of St. Basil in Vyshhorod which was later destroyed. Many Russian and Ukrainian churches were later named after them.
They are commemorated together on July 24th by the Orthodox Church, and were the first Russian saints glorified by the Russian and Byzantine Churches.
The Vologda Region of Northern Russia produced icons which blended the rigid Byzantine style taught in the many far flung monasteries of the North, together with the more earthly elements and color seen in the folk and peasant art of that region.
This icon is a later copy in the Vologda style of the same subject painted in Moscow in the mid 14th century now in the Tretyakov Gallery.
This vividly painted icon combines these two seemingly disparate elements perfectly, and is a beautiful example of this rarely painted subject.
A 19th century Russian icon of Saints Boris and Gleb, Vologda Region of Russia circa 1850