I went up to London yesterday and just happened to find this, which was, before you read further, dirt cheap, and is likely to increase in value. Eastern European art prices are projected to rise, even Communist era stuff.
It is a late 16th or early 17th Century image of the Mother of God, the panel is pine or spruce, extremely worm eaten, it has obviously been glued together a few times, there a holes that have been filled with bee’s wax. The panel is so light, I had to check it was wood rather than papier-mâché.
Its preservation is an indication of the devotion it had presumable for one family. It is one leaf of diptych, the other leaf would have been Christ, most probably it would have been a wedding gift. I think it is most probably Romanian, it could be Russian, though the style of painting could even suggest Northern Greece. If anyone has any expertise I would interested to know your thoughts about it. I am not sure that the photograph accurately records the depth of the colour.
Holding something this ancient makes one think of the prayers that would have been offered before it, the joys and tragedies it witnessed, newly weds, mothers giving birth, sons going off to war, famine and feasting, pestilence and plague, the state destruction of religion and its regained freedom. It presumably left its homeland with the coming of Communism.
Christianity is a religion of nostalgia, of looking back to Christ but through layers of history, having something like this in my hands reminds me of the simple handing on of faith from father to son, mother to daughter. The very fact it is here rather than in its homeland speaks of the faith’s fragility. But then somehow that is what the Incarnation is about the fragility of a child in the arms of his mother, in the arms of the Church.