- Museum number
- Object: St Basil the Great and four Saints
Icon; painted; in the centre is St Basil the Great flanked on the left by the standing figures of Sts Xenia and Peter, and on the right by Sts Matrona and Natalia. They all adore the figure of Christ in Glory above.
Inscriptions: in red in Church Slavonic above each of the saints' heads: ПРЕПОДОВНАЯ МАТЕРЬ НАША КСЕНИЙЯ (Venerable Our Mother Xenia), СВЯТОЙ АПОСТОЛ ПЕТР (St Apostle Peter), СВЯТОЙ ВАСИЛИЙ ВЕЛИКИЙ (St Basil the Great), ПРЕПОДОБНАЯ МАТЕРЬ HАША МАТРОНА (Venerable Our Mother Matrona), ПРЕПОДОБНАЯ МУЧЕНИЦА НАТАЛИЯ (Venerable Martyr Natalia).
Egg tempera on wood.
- Production date
Height: 31 centimetres
Thickness: 2.30 millimetres
Width: 26.60 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Cormack 2007, 124, no. 76
St Basil the Great (c. 330–79) was bishop of Caesarea, a theologian of distinction and a founder of monasteries. He wrote a set of Rules for both monks and nuns which was highly influential in the development of Byzantine monasticism and which are still followed to this day. His most important doctrinal writings are the ‘Treatise on the Holy Spirit’ and the three books ‘Against Eunomios’. After his death Basil’s cult spread rapidly in the West, aided partly by Greek monks in Italy and partly through the adoption by Benedict of Nurcia of many of his ideas on monasticism.
Two female saints by the name of Xenia are known in the Eastern calendar and are both celebrated on the same day. One was a deaconess, the daughter of a 5th-century Roman senator, the other, popular in Russia from the 18th century onwards, was known as the ‘Blessed Xenia (‘God’s Fool’) of St Petersburg’. The Xenia portrayed on this icon is the latter Xenia as she wears a nun’s robe.
St Matrona, another nun, was said to have lived in Asia Minor in the 5th century and Natalia suffered martyrdom with her husband Adrian in Nicomedia at the time of the persecutions of the Emperor Maximian (305–11).
[NB If the dating of this icon is correct, the Xenia depicted is unlikely to be Xenia of St Petersburg, who died at the end of the 18thc, with her iconography established in the 19thc.]
- Not on display
- Made from a single panel with two battens inserted along the upper and lower edges; the icon is covered with a thick degraded dark varnish; the faces of the saints are badly damaged and their robes partly worn.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- See 1998,0605.1 Most of the items catalogued under 1998,0605 were acquired by Sir Frank Roberts’ wife, Cella.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: IC 78 (Icon Collection number)