Epigonation with the Descent into Hell, 18th century

3 November 2011

Dimensions: 36 cm. each side.

The centre of this epigonation is occupied by the Descent into Hell in a rectangular frame with the inscription: “THE RESURRECTION OF CH[RIST]”. Christ, in an aureole with horizontal rays, treads down Hades, which is depicted not in the usual form of a supine demon, bound with chains “in the dark abyss”, “in the lowermost parts of the earth”, “the chambers of Hades”, to which He has descended to preach salvation “to those sleeping there from all ages”, but by the skulls of the dead. Christ is shown full-face, turning His head towards Adam, whose hand He holds. He also holds the hand of Eve, who is on His left. Both the ancestors of mankind are shown standing in their sarcophaguses. Behind Adam is the prophet-king David, as a reminder of the words of the psalm “For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder” (107/6: 16), while behind Eve is the figure of St John the Baptist, who is described in the troparion* as “harbinger to the faithful in Hades”. Both are standing in front of the dead, whose heads are shown in a simplistic manner behind them. The symbolism of the scene is drawn from the Resurrection hymns of the Church, and particularly from the familiar troparion “Christ is risen from the dead, treading down death by death and granting life to those in the tomb”.

The background is decorated with two giant stars, while in the four corners there are the symbols of the Evangelists in medallions, surrounded with floral decoration. In the top corner, on either side of the symbol of Matthew, are the two cosmic symbols of the Sun and the Moon. Where these two symbols appear, they serve as a ‘guard of honour’ for the “King of Glory”.

In the lower corner of the epigonation, the symbol of the Evangelist Luke is flanked by two cherubs and surrounded by a band with volutes of vegetation, crowned by the dove which symbolises the Holy Spirit.

The embroidery, in white, sea-blue, grey and chestnut brown, is flat on the faces and in relief on the decoration. Almost all the familiar stitches have been used. canetille, rococo work and spangles complement the embroidery. The variety of decoration and the horror vacui classify this epigonation as folk art.