The Descent into Hell ("Anastasis")
  • The Descent into Hell ("Anastasis")

    TitleThe Descent into Hell ("Anastasis")
  • Technique/ MaterialTempera on wood
  • DimensionsDimensions: (h x b x dj) 81 x 56 x 3 cm
    Frame: (h x b x dj) 86 x 56 x 9 cm
  • DatingMade the beginning of 1400s
  • Artist/Maker Artist: Unknown Russian
  • CategoryPaintings, Icons
  • Inventory No.NMI 296
  • AcquisitionPurchase 1965
  • Description
    Images and media

    Description in Icons, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, 2004, cat. no. 39:
    From Festival tier of an iconostasis.
    Early 15th century, Novgorod or Moscow
    NMI 296

    Wood: Linden (Tilia sp.), egg tempera
    on canvas. Panel made of two boards
    with two splines inlaid across the panel
    (both lost); partly grounded.

    PROVENANCE: Vilhelm Assarsson (”Novgorod,
    beginning of 15th century”); Åke
    Wiberg; Anders Wiberg; Acquired by the
    museum 1965
    EXHIBITIONS: Gothenburg 1970, no 6; Helsinki
    1970, no 6; Stockholm 1973, no 87;
    Stockholm 1988, no 8; Copenhagen 1996,
    no 167.
    BIBLIOGRAPHY: Assarssons samling (9:3);
    NM annual report 1965, pp 16–17; Reuter -
    swärd 1973, p 111, fig. 16; Abel 1978:1, fig. 10;
    Abel 1981, p 256; Quenot 1987, p 176; Abel
    1989:1, p 43; Abel 1989:2, pp 10, 13; Abel
    1996:2; Abel 1998, pp 23, 29, 54–57
    CONSERVATION: Restored prior to entering
    NM: crack through upper left part repaired
    with metal clips at top edge; scattered
    retouches; gold on background and borders
    removed with scattered remains; insertions
    of ground on background and borders with
    artificial craquelure; cleaned; letters and red
    border reconstructed; NM 1965: mending
    of crack, consolidation of paint, cleaned,
    retouched and varnished (B. Titov); 1974:
    crack in panel, with damage to paint layers,
    mended; 1988: conservation for blistering
    and paint flaking. Losses of paint layer and
    ground along crack in upper left border;
    surface abraded; nails and nail holes from
    metal cover on background and borders

    This is one of the central works in the
    collection, both artistically and iconographically.
    The solemn, elongated
    figures, the expressive faces are among
    the characteristics putting it in a class
    of its own. Others are the many antiquated
    aspects in the depiction of this
    motif; the positioning of Adam and
    Eve on the same side as Christ, the re -
    duced number of figures and the plac -
    ing of the protagonists in front of the
    cave rather than above it.1 Formerly
    this icon was believed to have originat -
    ed in Pskov, even though it lacks, for
    example, the armorial positioning of
    Adam and Eve which is typical of
    Pskov, and although the colouring is
    more typical of Novgorod. If anything
    it appears to be a transposition into a
    genuine Novgorod key of the Easter
    icon from the well-known feast tier in
    the Sofia Cathedral, Novgorod, which
    was probably executed by a painter
    from Byzantium or the Balkans in
    about 1340. I. Shalina has taken this to
    be a work from Moscow, with the consistently
    expressive lyrical character
    and the painted halos constituting a
    Hesychastic element.2
    This icon probably had its place in
    the Feast tier of an iconostasis.

    1 Smirnova 1976, pp 182–183.
    2 Shalina, Russian Museum, St Petersburg, on a
    visit to the Museum in June 2000.