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Icons draw followers to Savièse

17th century Russian icon.

(Collection Galerie Nydegg (Berne))

What is believed to be the most important collection of icons in Switzerland, some of them dating back to the 15th century, is currently being exhibited at Savièse in Canton Valais.

The wood may be cracked on many and the colours are fading, but these representations of biblical scenes have lost none of the artistic allure and historical value which has made them such sought-after items.

Even before the exhibition began, one of them - "The Ascension of the Prophet Elijah on his Chariot of Fire" - was bought by a collector for nearly Sfr50,000.

Their often high value has led most collectors to insist before concluding a sale on a certificate of authenticity, giving the provenance of the icon and its approximate date.

As the exhibition catalogue points out, icons originated in the Middle East as a Byzantine tradition of the Orthodox Church. Later the tradition spread to Greece - and above all, to Russia.

In fact most of the icons exhibited at the Maison de Commune in Savièse are Russian, with only a handful coming from Greece.

The exhibition, organised by the Nydegg Gallery in Berne, ends on October 15.

swissinfo with agencies

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