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St John the Baptist Angel of the Desert, Icon Painting, Tempera, Russia, 19th Ce

St John the Baptist Angel of the Desert, Icon Painting, Tempera, Russia, 19th Ce

Egg tempera on wood, Russia

With brass corners and halo

19th Century

This exquisite, interesting and popular icon shows many faces and iconography made following the strict cannons of Russian Sacred art.

Represented here is Saint John the Baptist, dressed in the customary camel's hair tunic typical of prophets and ascetics, and a dark red himation, is depicted standing front facing with wide wings that connote him as the “angel of the desert” and divine messenger.

He is blessing with his right hand, while with his left he is holding up a basin, inside of which a naked baby Jesus Christ can be seen blessing inside, following a pattern in Eastern Christianity popularised since the 13th century which celebrates John as the heavenly messenger, the one who prepares for the advent of Christ.

The iconography makes reference to the prophecies of the prophets Isaiah and Malachi cited in Gospels about John “Behold I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee” (Matthew 3:1; 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27). 

Below are four of the best-known stories from the Baptist’s life like his birth, celebrated on 24 June, and his beheading, celebrated on 29 August. 

This makes this unique icon rich in history and iconography and it has somewhat “hard to explain” divine aura. A rare collector item.


27x22 cm.

Good condition, there are cracks in the painting and a small restoration at the right of the scroll. At the back, there are rests of dead xylophages, not active anymore, painting is not affected. 


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