Antique icon of the Apostle Peter

“The Apostle Peter” – A 14th-Century Antique Icon of Obonezh School

There is only a handful of Russian religious icons created in the 14th century that lived up to modern days and can be studied as the antique legacy of Russian regional iconography. Some of the rarest and most famous 14th-century antique icons belong to the Obonezh iconography school – a northern regional school located near Novgorod. Such geographical proximity resulted in many similarities in the iconographic traditions and techniques, which now causes much confusion in the distinction of Obonezh and Novgorod schools’ works. An illustrative example of Obonezh iconographic art is an antique icon “The Apostle Peter” – one of the earliest antique Russian icons (and one of the three remaining Obonezh icons) preserved till today.

“The Apostle Peter” was created in the middle or the second half of the 14th century in Vegoruksa; analysis of this antique icon is vital for understanding the array of Novgorod iconographic traditions and antique northern art. That historical period was a turning point for Novgorod fine art, with a new, elevated emotional style emerging in the local artists’ works. These stylistic novelties are evident in the antique icon “The Apostle Peter” as one can notice the freedom of its composition, vividness of painting, affection of spirituality in the psychological attributes of the religious image. These features are pronounced in the free insertion of the image into the icon’s boundaries and the concinnity of bodily parts of the Apostle Peter. One can also distinguish the new influence in the relaxed posture and facial expression of the image: slightly narrowed eyes and clearly defined lights give the Apostle Peter a concentrated but lively appearance – a departure from the traditional detached, still religious images.

This antique icon creates a strong impression on any viewer because of its energetic performance, fine detail, and sophistication of brushstrokes. This was definitely a deviation from a generalized, tranquil manner of Russian Orthodox icon painting of the early 14th century. Nevertheless, the artist did not use all features of the new style – the Apostle Peter was still painted with a massive torso and large features.

This Russian icon’s value is enormous due to its rarity and old age. If you wish to find out more about this antique icon and the Obonezh or Novgorod schools of iconography, or to have some of your antique icons of that historical period appraised, welcome to the office of Russian Icon – a leading NY-based company appraising and buying antique Russian icons.

Photo credit: Christianity in Icons, Murals and Mosaics/