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A Silver-Gilt and Cloisonné Enamel Icon of Christ Pantocrator
Ovchinnikov, Moscow, c 1884
Estimated price: £180,000-250,000

A highlight of the forthcoming Russian sale is a rare and historically important icon. The central panel depicts Christ Pantocrator and is beautifully encased within a silver-gilt surround decorated with floral filigree and repoussé set against a sky blue ground of cloisonné enamels.

This exquisite icon was presented to Emperor Alexander III in 1888 by his elite guards and commemorates an Imperial miracle – the survival of the Emperor and his family from a horrific train accident.

In October 1888, the Emperor and his entourage were returning to St Petersburg when the train derailed at Borki, sending several cars plunging down a hill, resulting in the death of 21 members of the Imperial retinue. Miraculously, the Emperor and his family remained unscathed. The family were having a meal in the elaborately decorated dining car when the roof caved in. The Emperor in an act of bravery managed to lift the collapsing roof enabling his family to escape to safety. This event and the survival of the Emperor and his family was seen as testament to the holiness of the Russian people.

The icon was kept as a family relic and hung in the chapel at Gatchina, the Emperor’s favourite imperial residence. Following the Revolution, the icon is believed to have been dispersed along with many of the other Imperial treasures.

Sotheby’s Sale of Russian Works of Art, Fabergé and Icons will take place in London on November 27, 2012.

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on November 18, 2012.