Icon: St John the Forerunner 'Angel of the Desert' | S-23
Origin Russia, Palekh
Period : 19th century
Size : 31 x 26.3 cm
Private Collection, Germany

Saint John is depicted full-length with wings outspread, standing on a rocky surface with a river flowing. A hermit, he wears a camel-hair tunic beneath a green mantle. Characteristic features are his long hair and beard which falls into locks. With his right hand Saint John makes a gesture of blessing; in his left hand he holds an opened scroll. He also holds a chalice which contains the Christ Child. In the lower left and the lower right corner of the icon the Beheading of St John and the finding of the head of St John are depicted. On the upper border of the icon the New Testament Trinity is depicted with God the Father, the Christ Child and  the dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit.  

Representations of Saint John the Forerunner as an angel derive from the passage from Isaiah, quoted at the beginning of the Gospel of Saint Mark: ‘Behold, I send my messenger (Greek: angelos) before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee’. Orthodox Christians refer to him as the ‘Angel of the Desert’.