UNKNOWN ICON PAINTER, Russian
(active 1690-1710 in northern Russia)
The Holy Trinity1690-1710
Egg tempera on wood, 111 x 70 cm
At an early stage, what came to the fore as a valid image of the Trinity in the Eastern Church was a symbolic representation that was known as the philoxenia (hospitality) of Abraham, as it was based on the visit, described in Genesis 18, of three men or angels to Abraham and Sarah. Abraham had a calf slaughtered and entertained the guests, who then promised him that his aging wife Sarah would give birth to their longed-for son. This Old Testament story had already been interpreted by the Fathers of the Church as the first revelation of the three Persons of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost).
In this icon the three angels are sitting at a richly decked table, on which three chalices, knives, a jug, small loaves and other objects can be seen. Abraham's tent or house is replaced by a richly detailed, colourful town, while on the right loom the three peaks of a mountain on which grow stylised trees.