The Resurrection and Descent into Hell with Festivals

Palekh School
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reference number: RI_012

early 19th century

tempera on wooden panel

53.7 x 44.9 cm

Border scenes:

1 2 3 4 5
6 7
8 9
10 11
12 13 14 15 16
  1. The Nativity of the Mother of God;
  2. The Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple;
  3. The Old Testament Trinity;  
  4. The Annunciation;
  5. The Nativity of Christ;
  6. The Presentation of Christ into the Temple;
  7. The Theophany;
  8. The Entrance into Jerusalem;
  9. The Transfiguration;
  10. 10. The Ascension;
  11. 11. The Dormition of the Mother of God;
  12. 12.  The Raising of Lazarus;
  13. 13. The Beheading of St. John the Baptist;
  14. 14.  Pentecost;
  15. 15.  The Intercession (Pokrov);
  16. 16.  The Elevation of the Holy Cross.


Icons of the Resurrection – The Harrowing of Hades, supplemented with the Great Church Feasts on the borders were immensely popular in the Russian Empire. Known as “full-cycle icons” (Rus. – полницы) they encompassed all the main events of the liturgical calendar. The iconography was especially popular among the Palekh masters, whose work was particularly appreciated for its refined execution.


The centrepiece of the composition is traditionally dedicated to a detailed depiction of the Resurrection. Christ’s Rising from the Tomb and the Harrowing of Hades are painted along a single axis, linked by a diagonal procession of the pious marching from the Gates of Sheol into the Kingdom of Heaven. Surrounding the centre are the Gospel scenes either predating or following the Resurrection. In the upper left are the depictions of the Incredulity of Thomas and the Apostle Peter at the Empty Tomb. To the right – the Appearance of Christ to Luke and Cleopas at Emmaus; in the lower right – the Appearance of Christ to the Apostles on the Sea of Galilee.


Around the centrepiece is a frame composed of 16 border scenes of the Great Church Feasts (in their rather traditional iconographic version). The cycle starts with the Nativity of the Mother of God, which inaugurates the beginning of the liturgical year, and ends with the Elevation of the Holy Cross. The placement of the Old Testament Trinity in the central part of the upper tier breaks the chronological order of the feasts, yet this is the traditional place of the Trinity in Palekh “full-cycle” icons.


The icon dates back to Palekh’s golden age when the town’s icon painters primarily worked on expensive commissions. Palekh’s unique and recognisable style is evident in the icon’s decorative richness; the intricate miniature painting; the elongated proportions of the figures with small, round heads; the mastery of the architectural decoration; the elegance of the clouds and colourful, feather-like mountains. The white background of the border scenes, the light colour pallet and the absence of gold hatching on the vestments is highly indicative of early 19th century Palekh artwork.

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