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HOME : Russian Icons : Russian Icons : Saint John the Baptist
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Saint John the Baptist - PF.5700
Origin: Russia
Circa: 19 th Century AD
Dimensions: 17.3" (43.9cm) high
Collection: Russian Icons
Medium: Oil on Wood Panel

Location: United States
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Inseparable from the liturgical tradition, religious art is seen by Orthodox Christians as a form of pictorial confession of faith and a channel of religious experience. Because the icons provide direct personal contact with the holy persons represented on them, these images were objects of veneration, in either a public or private setting, and were even believed to have the ability to heal. Saint John the Baptist, believed to be the precursor and cousin of Christ, emerged after many years of self-teaching in the desert to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah, as prophesied in the Old Testament. He led an ascetic life, like the Old Testament prophets, and spent years preaching the importance of penitence, baptizing the faithful in the Jordan River. John’s work culminated in his baptism of Jesus. Soon afterward, John was imprisoned for angering Herod Antipas, the Judean ruler, by denouncing him for marrying Herodias, the wife of his half-brother Herod. At the request of Salome, daughter of Herodias and Herod, St. John was decapitated. This extraordinary icon depicts Saint John holding a golden chalice and an unwound scroll. Inside, we see a miniature baby Jesus, clearly an allusion to the baptism of Christ. However, this is a symbolic representation of the event, not a historical one. This icon in not dedicated to the baptism, but to the Baptist. From his overgrown, dreaded beard to his heavy, recessed eyes, the toils of his ascetic life, isolated in the desert, are evident. His elongated, emaciated wrist also attests to the toils of his philosophy. Stylistically, much is derived earlier Byzantine paintings and mosaics. This influence is evident in the linear, angular folds of his green and yellow drapery and the lack of spatial articulation besides the once solid gold leaf background symbolic of heaven. St. John appears here like a miraculous holy vision, permanently captured in paint for all to revere. - (PF.5700)


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