In 2008, in an online auction an icon of The Cathedral of the Archangel Michael / Собор архистратига Михаила appeared at auction. The icon was probably a copy but being passed off as an original made by Victor Mikhailovitch Vasnetsov / Виктор Михайлович Васнецов (1848-1926) and dated from the last quarter of the 19th c. It remains to be seen if there can be documented evidence of this icon being written and sold to the Society of Peasant Landowners and Cossacks which then gifted the icon to Mikhail Nikolaivitch Kotchoubey /Михайло Миколайович Кочубей (1863-1935). The icon was advertised as being on cypress board and with tempera paint and gold. Dimensions were 27.4 x 20cm. Some of Vasnetsov’s icons did not have canonical status as they were drawn in a realist style. As such they have decorative value but the icon of the Cathedral of Archangel Michael if indeed “written” by Vasnetsov follows the canonical traditions. The icon would have hung in the church on the Voronki property or at home and was certainly looted in 1918. The icon was interesting for four reasons.
1) It may have been the work of the famous Russian artist Vasnetsov / Васнецов from the famed artistic family and the man who had just completed the frescoes for the newly built St. Vladimir’s cathedral in Kiev. Vasnetsov worked on the project from 1884-1889.
2) It was a gift to Mikhail Nikolaievitch from the representatives of the society of Peasant Landowners and Cossacks dated 1895 with the following inscription “To his Excellency, Mikhail Nikolaivitch Kotchoubey from the representatives of the society of pesant landowners and cossacks.” description by the sellers:
На обратной стороне доски имеется пространная дарственная надпись, из которой следует, что в 1895 году она была преподнесена в дар «Его Высокородию Михаилу Николаевичу Кочубею от представителей Общества крестьян-собственников и казаков» (список их фамилий дается в этой надписи). Надпись заверена подписью Вепракского священника Василия Диаковского и скреплена круглой церковной сургучной печатью.
3) the sellers were looking to sell the icon for between $1 and $1.5 million. Given that this was still 2008, maybe that was a fair price….
4) on the back the icon is certified by the Vepraksky priest Vassili Diakovskiy and while there a number of sources that lead one to trace a priest with a similar name as one Vassili Grigorievitch Diakovskiy / Василий Григорьевич Диаковский whose fater was also a priest in Herson. Vassili himself graduated from seminary and then taught at the Herson Seminary and then became a priest in Lubomirka in the Saint Trinity Church. It is impossible to determine for sure the appropriate association but Vasnetsov did have several ties to Herson including a portrait of the Herson Museum’s founder. Perhaps the icon was originally destined for a church i n Herson and the certfication stands as a stamp of authenticity. The mystery remains in place. / (Надпись заверена подписью Вепракского священника Василия Диаковского и скреплена круглой церковной сургучной печатью.