An Imperial watercolor icon of the Derzhavnaya Mother of God

Grand Duchess Ksenia Alexandrovna, circa 1928

The hand painted icon of the Derzhavnaya ("She Who Reigns") Mother of God within a paper frame for presentation, bearing inscription in Russian: "To Ksenia from Amama [Grandmother]... presented (?) by her Amama in remembrance of her" and inscribed in English, "Windsor 1928" (now framed).

H: 3 3/4, W: 3 1/4 in. (icon); H: 16 3/4, W: 13 3/4 in. (frame)


H.I.H. Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia (1875-1960)
Princess Xenia Andreievna Romanoff (1919-2000)
Thence by descent.
Sold Christie's NY April 9, 2014, Lot 57
Estimate $4,000-6,000

The Derzhavnaya Mother of God is a holy image of the Virgin of a type which first appeared in Russia in the late 18th century, depicting the Virgin in red and holding the scepter and orb, symbols of royal authority.

In 1917, on the same day as the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II (15 March/2 March O.S.) it was reported that in the village of Pererva in Moscow Province, a peasant woman called Evdokia Adrianova had a vision of the Mother of God and was instructed to travel to the village of Kolomenskoye, where she would find an old icon; the icon found was the "Derzhavnaya." This icon was immediately interpreted by monarchists and emigres to indicate that on the Emperor's abdication, the Virgin had taken possession of the Russian crown and would keep it until such time as the Romanov dynasty would be restored.

The story spread quickly, and the icon became a potent symbol for monarchists and the Russian Orthodox faithful. It is interesting to note that only ten years after the 'appearance' of the icon, the Emperor's own sister would be painting images of this formerly obscure image for other family members. This work, painted by Grand Duchess Ksenia was presented to her granddaughter Irina Andreievna Romanoff, the daughter of the Grand Duchess' oldest son, H.H. Prince Andrei Alexandrovich of Russia.

The icon retains its importance as a religious and political symbol in Russia today; in 2007, the icon was featured in a highly publicized procession of "reconciliation" between all Russians whose mutual histories were severed in the wake of 1917.

For more information about the Derzhavnaya icon, cf. Yazykova, Irina, Hidden and Triumphant: The Underground Struggle to Save Russian Iconography (Paraclete Press, 2010), p 47 and also Shevzov, Vera, Alter Icons: The Russian Icon and Modernity (The Pennsylvania State University Press: University Park, Pennsylvania, 2010), pps. 246-247.