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OKLAD (COVER) FOR THE ICON
OF THE TIKHVAN MOTHER OF GOD

MOSCOW, BEGINNING OF THE 17TH CENTURY
Robes of the Virgin and Christ: Russia, 19th Century
Silver, gold, precious stones, pearls
91 x 71 Centimeters

The silver-gilt oklad for the Tikhvin Mother of God icon came to the Armory from the Kirillo-Beloozero Monastery. The richness of the decoration and the variety of techniques used in the precious metalwork are typical of the 17th century. It is a marvelously lavish and ceremonial piece of work: The crown of the Virgin contains large sapphires and rubies, weighing 90 and 30 carats; two 40 carat sapphires and an enormous gilded topaz of 700 carats are set in the tsata (pendant); the ubrus (headdress) is woven with kafimskii (river) pearls, and the stamped foliate design is especially delicate.

This exquisite oklad once decorated an example of one of the most revered icons of the Church. The chief characteristic of the Tikhvin Mother of God was that the Child was held in Mary's left arm. The original icon was reputed to have been painted by the apostle Luke, and up to the end of the 14th century was kept in the Church of the Blachernae in Constantinople. In 1383, this holy relic disappeared from the city and, according to Russian annals, surfaced near Novgorod in the town of Tikhvin, from where it got its name. A church was built here dedicated to the Virgin and later, in the middle of the 16th century, the Tikhvin Monastery was founded on the initiative of Ivan the Terrible.

Legend has it that the icon worked many miracles. In 1613, the Swedes had seized much of the land around Novgorod. The Tikhvin Monastery, and the local inhabitants who had gathered within its walls, were saved from the Swedes by the protection of the icon. Soon after this event, a holiday was instituted in honor of the Tikhvin Mother of God. Copies were made of the miraculous icon. It was in the presence of one of them that Russia concluded the significant Stolbov Peace with Sweden.

Icons of the Tikhvin Mother of God were very popular in Rus, and few churches did not have one among their collection. It would be a particular honor to commission an oklad for such a revered icon. In the case of this icon, judging by the valuable work, which is clearly the work of a Moscow master, the commission may have come from a member of the royal family.

Text taken from catalog description by Elizaveta V. Shakurova


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