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 border scenes where especially popular among all social classes of the Russian Empire, since they encompassed the main liturgical events of the year. They became known as “full-cycle icons” (Rus. – полницы). This iconography was especially popular among the Palekh masters, whose work was always appreciated for the refined, miniature painting.


The centrepiece is traditionally dedicated to the detailed iconographic variation of the Resurrection. The Rising from the Tomb and the Harrowing of Hades are painted along a single axis, compositionally united by the diagonal procession of the pious marching from the Gates of Sheol into the Kingdom of Heaven. Surrounding the centre are the Gospel scenes which either predated or followed 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 Revelation of Christ to Luke and Cleopas at Emmaus; in the lower right – the Revelation of Christ to the Apostles on the Sea of Galilee.


Around the centrepiece we see a frame, composed of 16 border scenes, bearing the depiction of the Great Feasts (in their rather traditional iconographic variation). The cycle begins with the Nativity of the Mother of God, which inaugurates the start 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 violates the chronological order of the feasts; yet this is the traditional place of the Trinity in Palekh’s “full-cycle” icons.  


The given icon dates back to Palekh’s golden age, when the town’s masters primarily worked on expensive, commissioned pieces. Palekh’s unique and recognizable style is evident in the icon’s decorative richness; the intricate miniature painting; the elongated proportions of the figures, crowned with their small, round heads; the monochromatic carnation; the mastery of the architectural depictions; 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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