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AppraiserJM, Antiques and Collectibles Researcher
Category: Antiques
Satisfied Customers: 1621
Experience:  Certified Appraiser, Appraiser's Association of America. USPAP qualified through 2015.
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Russian religious icon Purchased by a friend in 1990 in

Customer Question

Russian religious iconPurchased by a friend in 1990 in Moscow. He didn't speak Russian and the vendor didn't speak English, so there is no accompanying information. There is, however, writing (Russian?) on the back that might provide some information. The piece is on wood, approximately 8" x 12". There appears to be a front piece of wood on which the painting exists and a back piece, with a piece of metal layer in between (to prevent warping?). We believe the paint is egg tempera. There is evidence that someone tried to clean it - starting with the faces, of course, which left a "beard" as the organic paints were dissolved by whatever was used for cleaning.Can you translate the writing on the verso? Can you tell me anything about the piece and its value?
Submitted: 3 months ago.
Category: Antiques
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
I am attaching an additional photo - one that shows the writing on the verso better.
Expert:  AppraiserJM replied 3 months ago.

Hi, my name is*****'m a certified appraiser, and I'd be happy to help.

The writing on the verso says:

With gratitude from the Soviet people

Opening Day


August 12 1990

The photo of the front is a bit indistinct. Is it at all possible to get a better, clearer photo of the actual icon front?

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Please find attached additional photos.
Expert:  AppraiserJM replied 3 months ago.

Thank you.

This is a 20th century Russian icon of the Mother and Child. I'm unclear--is that gold leaf, or gold-colored paint?

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
As mentioned earlier, the paints are egg tempera and not gold leaf. I think you can see that given the worm holes through the paint in one of the pictures. Also, I'd be surprised if the piece was as recent as 20th century.
Expert:  AppraiserJM replied 3 months ago.

Yes, these are all in egg tempera, but usually have gilded areas as well.

Those are not insect holes on the front, although they are on the back. Instead of gilding, some icons have a hammered metal sheet adhered over the painted layer. Those holes are where the sheet was attached. That is often done instead of directly gilding the painting. On this link, you can see what this would have looked like before the metal plate was removed:

The tempera losses are likely due to the rubbing of the hammered metal frontspiece, before it was removed.

Based on the style of the painting, this piece is definitely 20th century. Given the condition of the tempera, and the missing fronstpiece, the value would not be high. perhaps $100.



Customer: replied 3 months ago.
I am uploading 3 more pix at high resolution - one at a time due to size. I've counted 17 holes on the face of this painting. Most are of the same diameter as the worm holes on the back and sides. Some, but not most, may represent fasteners. I think most are worm holes. Take a look at these once again and see if that affects your appraisal.
Expert:  AppraiserJM replied 3 months ago.

I do still feel this is 20th century. However, I am going to opt out. Perhaps another appraiser will add more insight.


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