Greece, possibly Mount Athos
Post-Byzantine, Greek, Orthodox
Wood and varnish
3 3/8 × 3 13/16 × 3/16 in. (8.6 x 9.7 x 0.4 cm)
0.462 oz. (13.1 g)
Bequest of David P. Harris ('46), 2020
Purchased by Mr. David P. Harris from Chris Martin-Zakheim (Iconastas) in London on June 18, 1992.
This piece is remarkably intact, considering its age and delicate structure. There are many small marks and indentations on the rim on the viewer’s left side, near the six o’clock position and the nine o’clock position. There is also a tape-like residue around the edge; some of this residue is green, some brown, and some beige. The scene of the Ascension exhibits no damage; however there is some accumulation of dust. September 2022. - Sara Carmichael ('25)
This Greek wooden icon is an oval-shaped roundel that depicts the biblical scene of Jesus’s Ascension to heaven. It is an openwork relief carving, meaning that the space around the figures pierces through the wood. Jesus is seated at the highest point, flanked by two attentive angels on either side, who appear to carry him up in a cloud. Below them is a band of eleven angels, suspended in mid-air, announcing his return to Heaven with a blow into their horns. The Virgin Mary stands at the lowest central point of the composition, with her head bowed to the left and her hands gesturing heavenward. Over each shoulder, two angels look to opposite sides, addressing the twelve apostles, six on the viewer’s right side and six on the viewer’s left. The focus of the apostles is upward towards Jesus, as they perch on the branches of conventionalized trees, meant to represent the Mount of Olives. The artist has dressed the apostles in robes, carving small indentations into the wood in order to give the impression of drapery. Each register of the piece is connected either by the sweeping wings of the angels, or the tree branches that support the many figures. Due to the rather crowded nature of the roundel, the only negative space in the piece surrounds the band of angels, which adds to the illusion of suspension. Carved around the circumference of the piece is a woven, rope-like border. A small hole at the top center allowed the icon to be suspended. The back shows the remnants of adhesive and material that once covered it.
Sara Carmichael ('25) for ARHS 291 Museum Object (Fall 2022).