(16th century)

Sculpture of St Nicholas of Mozhaisk

16th century
Wood, painted in tempera on gesso ground, 154 x 90 x 17 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

St Nicholas, sculptured full-length, originally with a sword in his right hand and the sculptural representation of a fortress in his left, personifies the formidable defender of the town of Mozhaisk. The cult of St Nicholas of Mozhaisk was popular in various parts of Russia. The sculpture in the Hermitage collection was brought from Kargopol, an important acquisition of the Moscow tsars in the 16th century, in no way inferior to the other northern trade centres. Despite the lost details (the halo, the sword and the sculptural representation of the fortress) and the initial layer of colour which was almost fully covered by the darkened drying oil and later painting, the sculpture has not lost its expressiveness. The figure is flat, the forms are simple and clean, the posture of the saint is solemn. The polychrome painting of the sculpture is executed in a subtle graphic manner, with a great amount of gold. The carved figure of St Nicholas of Mozhaisk represents well Russian monumental plastic art of the 16th century.