Lot 111

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A RARE AND IMPORTANT RUSSIAN ICON ONCE BELONGING TO THE TSAREVICH ALEXEI NIKOLAEVICH ROMANOV, CIRCA 1914.   In this icon is depicted the name saint of the Tsarevich, Saint Alexei Metropolitan of Moscow. Here the 14th century saint is depicted in the distinctive dress of his office including an elaborate klobuk, vestments and panagia. With his right hand St. Alexei delivers a blessing and his left hand holds a crosier. The entire icon overlaid with an extravagant riza comprised of intricately woven silver-gilt thread. The klobuk covered with a profusion of seed pearls and displaying a cross set with cut amethyst. The vestments further decorated with paste stones and the panagia being of carved mother of pearl depicting a bust of the Virgin. The head of St. Alexei encircled with a sunburst style halo consisting of alternating silver and gilt rays and the upper corners with inscribed title plaques framed in a border of seed pearls and sequins identifying him as "The Holy Alexei Metropolitan of Moscow". The lower margin with substantial applied silver-gilt engraved dedicatory plaque set with the Imperial crown which reads, “To his Imperial Highness the Crown Prince Tsarevich and Grand Duke Alexei Nikolaevich, The God-protected on his tenth birthday, 30th July 1914”.  The verso of icon also with an engraved silver gilt plaque displaying a heartfelt poetic prayer to the Tsarevich, “The humble one is guarded by the Lord, in whom he is greatly delighted. May the Angel of the Lord be with him always on his way, wherever he wishes to go. May your youth blossom by the hand of the Almighty Creator, and may your wisdom strengthen with the prayers of your loyal subjects. A heartfelt, prayerful offering from the loyal nuns of the Kholmogorsk Dormition Convent of the Archangelsk Diocese, from the head Abbess Angelina and the other sisters.30th of July, 1914" Each plaque hallmarked St. Petersburg, circa 1908-1917, maker's mark A.K., likely for Alexander Karpov, and with 84 silver standard. 12.5 inches x 10 inches (31.4 x 25.5 cm).

Estimate:  $12,000 - 18,000   € 10,560 - 15,840
Price Realized: $50,000.00


Abbess Angelina and the Sisters of the Kholmogorisk Dormition Convent, July 30, 1914, to Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich Romanov (1904-1918) as depicted amongst his personal icons displayed in his bedroom (see illustration). Possibly with Mosgostorg and probably with Armand Hammer where likely acquired by an American collector from whom acquired by the present owner.

It is of course well documented that many members of the Russian Imperial family regularly received gifts for a variety of occasions including their birthday. However, the Tsarevich, the heir to the throne, was known to have received a multitude of ornate icons over his short lifetime depicting a variety of subjects including quite frequently, as in the offered icon, those of his name saint – Alexei of Moscow. Photographic evidence (circa 1918) verify that the Tsarevich had in his bedroom a substantial cabinet consisting of six arched niches each holding a vast amount of icons gifted to him. The offered lot is clearly depicted in this photograph on the lower shelf at the base of the third niche from the right immediately below another icon of St. Alexei (see illustration).

The Kholmogorisk Dormition Convent was founded in the 18th century built on the hills overlooking the Northern Dvina River about 125 miles south of the port city of Arkhangelsk on the White Sea. As described in “The Historical Description of the Kholmogor Dormition Women’s Monastery” (printed in 1911), the monastery (convent) operated an icon painting workshop which employed 12 painters at that time. Additionally, the monastery also housed a gold and silver embroidery workshop which specialized in finely woven icon covers (rizas) such as the type covering the offered lot. It also mentions that the monastery had the good fortune to present their works to “Supreme Individuals” including, according to their archives, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1904) and in 1885, His Highness Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich.

Abbess Angelina was born into the world as Matron Alekseevna Spehina in the year 1854. She was the daughter of peasants and at the age of nine in 1863 was admitted to the orphanage school for girls located in the monastery. At age 33, she became a novice and about a year later a nun. Not long after she was given the responsibility of treasurer. On the 19th of July, 1906, Abbess Evparaksiya died. A little over a month later Angelina was voted abbess (the 18th in the history of the monastery). In 1909 she was awarded the pectoral cross of the Holy Synod and in 1916 the gold pectoral cross from the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty. She remained abbess up until 1920 when the monastery was eventually closed by the Soviets and converted into a prison. After that there appears to be no record of Abbess Angelina. However, there is a legend amongst many locals that one of the abbesses was walled up in one of the niches within the monastery.

Sadly, less than one month shy of his 14th birthday, in the early hours of July 17, 1918, Alexi, along with his Father the Tsar, his mother and all his sisters, was brutally slain by Bolshevik Secret Police.

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