Sergii the Miracle Worker'.53 The icon hung to the right of the Royal Doors from the fifteenth century until the 1920s, when it was brought to Moscow and exhibited in the Tret'iakov Gallery, where it remains. An alternative version is that the icon was in fact made for St Sergii's tomb, and only later, by the time of the first description of the monastery in the 1640s, placed on the iconostasis.54 However, some scholars have proposed a much earlier date, suggesting that Andrei painted a different version of the subject for the Trinity cathedral.55 A radical theory claims that the icon was originally painted in Zvenigorod and donated to the Trinity monastery in the 1550s by Tsar Ivan IV, who had been baptised there.56 It was only in Ivan IV's time that Rublev began to gain in reputation.
These perhaps irreconcilable discrepancies do not detract from the importance of the image, which is an expression of the essence of Christianity in pictorial form. The three figures seated around a table appear in Genesis 18:116 in an episode sometimes referred to as the 'Hospitality of Abraham'. Three men (angels) appear to Abraham under the oak of Mamre to foretell the miraculous birth of a son to his wife, Sarah, who is past childbearing age. The joyful couple have a servant slaughter a fatted calf to entertain the messengers. (Some versions ofthe icon show Abraham and Sarah with a servant killing a calf in the lower portion.57) Christian theologians interpret this passage as one of many examples of a prototype or prefiguration of the New Testament in the Old. The angels represent Father, Son and Holy Spirit, probably seated in that order from left to right.58 The chalice represents the Eucharist, which is the pledge of eternal life (another cup is formed by the contours of the figures); the tree (the Tree of Life) prefigures the Cross, the building to the left is divine wisdom,
53 A. A. Saltykova, 'Ikonografiia "Troitsy" AndreiaRubleva', in Drevnerusskoeiskusstvo. XIV-XVvv., ed. O. I. Podobedova (Moscow: Nauka, 1984), 81. The famous reference to Rublev painting the icon 'in praise of Sergii' was based on a seventeenth-century compilation, 'The narrative of the holy icon painters' (Skazanie o sviatykh ikonopistsakh).
54 V Antonova, 'O pervonachal'nom meste "Troitsy" Andreia Rubleva', Gos. Tret'iakovskaia Galereia: Materialy i issledovaniia 1 (1956), 21-43.
55 See Briusova, Andrei Rublev i moskovskaia shkola zhivopisi, 20, who dates it about 1400 on stylistic grounds. For a summary of developments in Rublev studies, see V G. Briusova, Andrei Rublev (Moscow: Izobrazitel'noe iskusstvo, 1995), 40-4.
56 Plugin, Master Sviatoi Troitsy, 509; V A. Plugin, 'O proiskhozhdenii "Troitsy" Rubleva', Istoriia SSR 2 (1987), 64-79; Plugin, 'Andrei Rublev i Ivan Groznyi. O sud'be "Troitsy"', Nauka i Religiia 7 (1989), 55-8. This view has entered textbooks: e.g. V D. Chernyi, Iskusstvo srednevekovoi Rusi (Moscow: Vlasos, 1997), 189.
57 See, for example, a mid-sixteenth-century Novgorod icon in Grierson, Gates ofmystery, 114-17. On the iconography N. Malitskii, 'K istorii kompozitsii vetkhozavetnoi Troitsy', Seminarium Kondakovianum 2 (1928), 33-46; Saltykova, 'Ikonografiia "Troitsy" Andreia Rubleva', 81; Uspensky, Theology, ii, 294-6, 398-402 and passim. See below p. 297.
58 No inscriptions identify the three. Opinion is divided over whether the central angel or the angel to the left represents Christ. See Vzdornov, Troitsa AndreiaRubleva, 12-13.
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