The Prophet Elijah in the Desert


The reverse side of the icon reads, “This holy image was painted in Moscow by Tsar’s supported and awarded master Fedor Zubov … for the Yaroslavian trader Ioann Skripin to be given for his soul to the Prophet Elijah Church in Yaroslavl.”

The outstanding icon-painter, Fedor Zubov, painted the icon in Moscow and sent it to a family of wealthy Yaroslavian fur-traders, the Skripins, who invested large sums in the building and decoration of Yaroslavian churches.

The image is based on a Bible passage from Kings (17: 2-6), which states that Elijah was commanded by God to hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of Jordan. He was told to drink from the brook and that ravens would feed him bread and meat. Elijah is shown turning his head to look at the raven, a messenger from God painted in the shape of a cross, descending from heaven with golden bread in its mouth. The beautifully painted icon is full of symbolic meaning. Gold is the color of divine presence in iconography and the bread in the raven’s mouth is shaped like a golden Easter egg, symbolizing the future resurrection of Christ.