Russian Novgorod Icons from Intercession Row of an Iconostasis
In 2016, Marilyn and Charles Humes generously gifted Fountain Hills Presbyterian Church with these valuable Russian icons, which currently adorn the narthex of our Sanctuary. Marilyn graciously penned the history of the icons which follows. 
These icons, whose originals date back to the late 15th/early 16th centuries, were exhibited in Moscow in 1913, for the first and last time, in commemoration of the tercentenary of the dynasty of the Romanovs. An American collector, George R Hann, next exhibited them from 1935 to 1937.

Charles and I received these icon reproductions from my godfather and mentor, Dr. Eric Claus Hulmer, curator of the George R. Hann Collection of Art in Sewickly Heights, Pennsylvania, as a wedding present in (Year) years ago.

 

George R. Hann was the president of Oliver Iron and Steel in Pittsburg. He was also a founder of Capitol Airlines and a serious art collector. His estate was called “Tree Tops,” a baronial mansion in Sewickley Heights, Pennsylvania overlooking the Ohio River. He bought the icons from the Tretjakkov Gallery in Moscow. 
 
According to Eric, Mr. Hann had only two sets of these icons made. One set was given to Eric, who knew how much I loved icons and my plans to achieve a Master of Fine Arts degree using the Hann icons as part of my thesis.
Now about the icons and what they represent. The word “ikon” comes from the Greek ,”eikon or eikonos,” meaning “image or picture.” From this term is derived iconography which is the study of symbolism. These icons come from the city of Novgorod, Russia, well known for its icon school, and probably created at the end of the Fifteenth or Early Sixteenth Century.
 
Icons were pictorial images, usually painted on wood panels that represent the “words” of the Russian Orthodox Church similar to the stained glass windows of the European Church. Both provided tools to teach the stories of the Bible to the uneducated.

Virgin Mary and John the Baptist

 

These icons come from the most important row of the Iconostasis, a wall dividing the alter from the rest of the church. A “Deesis”, sometimes also called “Deisus,”is a traditional iconic representation of Christ in Majesty or Christ Pantocrator: enthroned, carrying a book, and flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist, and sometimes other saints and angels.

The center icon represents the Savior, both the Head of the Church and the Redeemer who sacrificed himself for man’s sins. The open Book of Gospels He holds in his left hand reads “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. Xi, 28).  Please note the reverse prospective used to illustrate that He is judging you. Christ is surrounded by an aurora wherein you will find the symbols of the four apostles, Matthew, the winged man; Mark, winged lion; Luke, winged bull or ox; and John, the eagle.

 
The next icon figures are those of the Archangels, Michael and Gabriel holding a spear and a luminous orb with the monograph of Christ.

Archangel Michael

Archangel Gabriel

Apostle Peter

Apostle Paul

 
Still further are the Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul. If you wish to know which one is Saint Peter look for his symbol, the keys.
Charles and I had the privilege of being at Christie’s New York auction house in 1980, after the death of Mr. Hann, to see the original icons which were auctioned at between
$150,000 to $170,000 each. We hope you will enjoy them as much as we have.
We are so blessed to come into possession of them.
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Charles & Marilyn Humes
Longtime members of FHPC, Charles W. Humes, Jr. passed away on November 1, 2016 and Marilyn relocated from Fountain Hills to Scottsdale in 2019.

Wedding Day 1965

Marilyn & Charles

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Intercession Row of an Iconostasis
The iconostasis developed because of the desire to partition the areas of the Altar and the Nave.
 
The original form was probably more like a railing or a row of columns intended to separate with curtains the Holy of Holies where the miracle of the Eucharist occurred. It became common practice to exhibit paintings representing Christ the Sole Ruler above the Royal Gate adding to it a Deesis (intercession) of the interceding Mother of God and St. John the Baptist. This Deesis has remained the centerpiece for later multi-row inconostases.

According to the degree of holiness, they are added to the right and left side.

The Deesis row is made up like many others of seven icons. These show the beauty of the Novgorod iconostasis from the height of the Russian icon paintings. The slender figures bow graciously forward and harmonize in the use of colors. The balancing of the composition finds special emphasis in the carefully designed drapes of the garments