Old Testament Trinity

Regio: Russia
Periode: Ca. 1800
Afmeting: 31 x 25,5 cm


Traditionally, icons of the Holy Trinity depict the event described in Genesis 18, 1-15, in which three men visit the patriarch Abraham. Abraham welcomes the three men, washes their feet and offers them food: bread made by his wife Sarah and a young calf prepared by his servant. From the text it is clear that it is God who speaks to Abraham. God promises Abraham and Sarah a son, despite their old age. After the meal, the three men continue their journey to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. When Abraham learns that the cities will be destroyed because of the grievous sins of their inhabitants he pleas to spare the city of Sodom if there are good people living there. The Lord agrees to spare the city if at least ten good people live within its walls. When the men arrive in Sodom, Lot, Abraham’s nephew, welcomes them. Lot, his wife and his two daughters are told to flee the city before its destruction. They are told not to look back whilst being on the run. Lot’s wife can not resist the temptation and looks back whereupon she turns into a pillar of salt.

Since Abraham addresses the three visitors as ‘My Lord’, early Christian theologians interpreted the three visitors as a manifestation of the Holy Trinity. The iconography of the Holy Trinity shows three young angels seated at a table. The tree in the background symbolises the Oak of Mamre, the buildings on the left the house of Abraham, while the hill one the right is often considered to symbolise spiritual ascent. Usually, one of the angels reaches out for a cup of chalice that is placed at the table, while the other angels make a blessing gesture. The feet of the angels do not touch the ground.

The extended iconography of this ‘narrative’ icon of the Holy Trinity not only shows the three angels seated at the table, but also the events preceding and following the meal. On the lower part, Abraham is welcoming the men, washing their feat and pleading for the salvation of Sodom. In the middle section we can see Sarah baking bread and servant preparing the calf. In the upper part Lot and his family flee when the city of Sodom is being consumed with flames. Lot’s wife is left behind, still looking of her shoulder.