Icon: Holy Trinity

Number: A039 Period: 17th century
Name: Icon: Holy Trinity Size: 31 x 27 cm
Origin: Russia Price: sold

The prototype for this icon was the mysterious appearance of the Holy Trinity in the form of three travelers to Abraham and Sarah under the Oak of Mamre as recorded in Chapter 18 in the book of Genesis.

Three angels sit at a richly-prepared table for a meal offered to them by Abraham and Sarah. The angel at the centre inclines his head to the left. The other angels also bow their heads, and raise their right hands in a gesture of blessing. In the lower right corner a calf is being slaughtered for the meal by Abraham himself (an unusual iconographic detail). In the background, from left to right, are Abraham house, the oak of Mamre and the rock, all recognizably Christian symbols.

While Russian theologians did not specifically distinguish the three persons of the Trinity in this type by inscription, some understood them thus: Christ is in the center with the tree above him, signifying the wood of the Cross; God the Father is at the left, in front of a building, symbolizing the Church; the Holy Spirit is on the right, in front of a hill, signifying spiritual ascent.

The concept of the Holy Trinity played a central role in religious and daily life for medieval Russians. From the time of Sergei of Radonezh (1314-1392), the Trinity had represented peace, love and the spiritual unity of the Russian people. The feast of the Trinity is celebrated in Russia during Pentecost, as the Orthodox Church regards Pentecost as the feast at which the revelation of God as Three-In-One is completed. At Christmas the Father sends his Son, at Easter the Son vanquishes death, and at Pentecost the Holy Spirit descends on the people. Pentecost is thus the feast of the revelation of the third per who, together with the Father and the Son, brings about the salvation of mankind.

This icon is an 17th century icon which has been set into a 19th century panel. The practice of extending the life of an old icon by resetting it into a later panel was a common method to preserve an icon whose outer border had deteriorated. This was done for icons with great spiritual value. These icons were much treasured by families and had been passed down through numerous generations. Sometimes they were donated to a church or chapel by a distinguished patron.

The upper border of the icon is inscribed with ‘The Holy Trinity’


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