It started with the Council of Nicaea, when a group of over 300 Catholic bishops debated the nature of the Holy Trinity. Arius took the position that Jesus the Son was not equal to God the Father. It took a lengthy explanation for Arius to do this, and while Nicholas listened he grew in anger. As legend has it, once he had had enough, Nicholas stood up, walked across the room, and smacked Arius. Emperor Constantine had called for the Council of Nicaea, and at the time it was illegal for anyone hit another person in his presence, but he allowed the bishops to decide on Nicolas’ punishment. This became jail time. During the night, an ashamed Nicholas saw Jesus and Mary the Mother. They asked him, “Why are you in jail?” “Because of my love for you,” responded Nicholas. It’s then reported that Jesus gave Nicholas the Book of the Gospels, and Mary gave an omophorion so Nicholas could again be dressed as a bishop. The next morning the jailers found a content Nicholas in bishop’s robes, reading the Gospel. They brought him to Constantine who freed him and reinstated him as the Bishop of Myra, a city in present day Turkey. That is the story told in this icon.
The most pressing issue are the immense number of craquelures, the fine cracks. They are in danger of enlarging, as well as they tell the story of what’s happening below the surface. It’s likely the oak panel is cracking which will cause the paint film to shift. Along St. Nicholas’ robe there is an area of loss on the central cross. Furthermore, across the icon there are many white dots that represent small areas of loss. It will be necessary to consolidate the whole surface of the icon. This will give a smoother and cleaner look to the icon, and make the gilding even more impressive. Stay tuned for more . . .