signed on face of icon, lower right: “by the hand of D. Vayajolu”
wood; gesso; paint; gold
United States of America
Genesis 18:1-15; “Old Testament Trinity,” Andrei Rublev, ca. 1411, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia
H: 9.3 in. x W: 6.5 in. x D: 0.8 in.
H: 23.6 cm. x W: 16.4 cm. x D: 2.0 cm.
Copyright 2010 College of Saint Benedict. All rights reserved.
Artifacts; Original Drawings, Paintings, Icons, Calligraphy;
This object was both dry and damp cleaned according to directions from a conservation expert when it was received at Clemens Library. The cleaning removed spatter marks that were on the face of the panel. At some time prior to acquisition, the panel had suffered fractures to its surface. Damage to the front: a big chip, upper right corner; parallel scratches in the gold, upper corner; big chip, lower left edge of panel, with adjacent dents that do not break the paint; chips and dents to the entire right corner (depth of panel). Damage to the back: chips, upper left corner; large and deep chips top and sides, upper right edge; small chip, middle right edge; small chips, lower right corner; small chip, lower left edge, near corner.
This original painting on a flat, rectangular, solid wood panel depicts in a highly symbolic way the biblical scene of Abraham’s hospitality to divine messengers. The scene is also known as the Old Testament Trinity, based on a Christian interpretation of this Hebrew scripture.
The composition is taken from André Rublev’s famous portrayal of the theme which arranges three winged figures on benches around an altar-like table set with a single bowl containing some unidentified morsel in its shallow dish. Historically, the figures have been identified, left to right, as: the Father, clothed in a silver-blue inner robe (chiton) and pink outer robe (himation), with a building behind; the Son, clothed in a deep red chiton and deep green himation, with a tree behind; the Spirit, clothed in a deep green chiton and pale green himation, with a mountain behind. Each figure bears a slender staff.
Without any of the figures dominating, their subtle hand gestures and directions of their gazes create a very active, circular movement in a most serene composition. The Greek inscription, top center of the gold field, identifies the image as the Holy Trinity. The panel is painted with a border of dull red-brown. Its sides and back are painted as well. There is a metal hanger on the back.
One of three icons in the Sullivan Collection “by the hand of D. Voyajolu”. The writer of Genesis refers to Abraham’s visitor(s) as “the Lord” and “three men” in 18:1-2. In Genesis 19:1, the beings are called “two angels”.