The Russian Icon. The head doll depicts St. Joachim and Anna (Св. Иоаким и Анна). This Orthodox icon is known as the Feast of of the Conception of the Virgin Mary. The husband of Saint Anne and the father of Mary, the mother of Jesus, are painted embracing at the Golden Gate of Jerusalem upon learning that she will bear a child. Their kiss symbolizes this moment. It first appeared in the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James and other apocryphal accounts. Inscription beneath reads: "Зачатие Пресвятой Богородицы (Feast of of the Conception of the Virgin Mary).
The prayer at the bottom is a fragment from the eighth prayer from the cycle of Evening Prayers. "Господи Иисусе Христе, Сыне Божий, ради честнейшия Матере Твоея, и безплотных Твоих Ангел, Крестителя Твоего, избави мя настоящаго обстояния бесовскаго." (Roughly translated: "Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for the sake of Thy most honest Mother, and Thy incorporeal Angel, and Thy the Baptist, save me the demon of the real situation".) The icon is Christ Pantocrator (Христос Вседержитель), which is also known as "Christ the Teacher". This representation is one of the best known in Byzantine and Orthodox iconography. Christ holds a Gospel and blesses and declares: "I am the Light of the World". His halo reads: "I AM," symbolizing His divinity and referring to His words, "Before Abraham was, I AM."
The third icon is The Virgin of the Sign (Богоматерь Знамение) and is one of the most revered icons of Russian Orthodoxy. The title indicates that it is from 16th century Pskov. It is the image of the Mother of God with hands raised in the orans (Latin for prayer) with the image of the Child Jesus.
The fourth icon is of the Trinity (Троица), originally painted by Russia's most celebrated iconographer, Andrei Rublev (1360-1428). Three winged angels appear to Abraham. They sit and gesture towards the chalice in the center of the table. Abraham's house, the ancient oak of Mamre and the mountainside are in the background. The Trinity is the fundamental theme of Pentecost.
The fifth icon is The Miraculous Battle of St. George with the Dragon (Чудо Георгия о Змие) and is based on the original icon from 15th century Novgorod. St. George is the patron saint of Moscow (and also of England and many other countries), and is also a military saint. The most famous act attributed to St. George is that of slaying the Dragon that lived in a lake near Silena, Libya. By defeating this creature with one fierce strike of his lance, he simultaneously rescued the princess Elizabeth. St. George then preached to and converted the citizens and distributed his reward to the poor.
Sixth is a miniature from the Khitrovo Gospels - a Russian illuminated gospel book from the late 14th or early 15th century. It is attributed to Andrei Rublev. (Андрей Рублев. Ангел. Миниатюра из Евангелия Хитрово. Начало XV века.) The gospel takes its name from Bogdan Khitrovo, a boyar who obtained the manuscript from the short-lived Tsar Fyodor III (1661-1682). Khitrovo bequeathed the gospel to the Trinity Monastery near Moscow, where Rublev used to be a monk.
The final icon of this beautiful doll is that of The Holy Face (Христос Нерукотворный) painted by Simon Ushakov (1626-1686) in 1658 for The Church of the Trinity in Nikitniki. The liturgical name for this icon is "Christ Acheiropoietos", which means "a divinely wrought portrait, or not hand made". Other names include "Not-made-by-hands", Holy Mandylion and Holy Napkin. This icon was often painted on silk flags and large banners, then carried into battle at the head of Russian armies to protect soldiers from enemies and to inspire them in combat.
On the back of each doll is a red cross with half-moon which symbolizes the baptistery, in which the Church is baptized. Another meaning of the half-moon is the cradle in Bethlehem and the chalice with the Body of Christ. It also symbolizes the ship of the Church led by Christ, and the anchor of hope gifted by Christ.
All of the images were hand painted by the Russian artist Elena Kovshik using Palekh-style techniques of tempera, lacquer and free-hand gold border decorations. The dolls were all painted black before the artist began painting images. There is a bit of wear to the dolls, but nothing glaring. She signed it on the base of the first doll and dated it 1998. 7 nest, 7" down to 1½". 1 only, as shown.