The Ustyug Annunciation
The monumental figures of the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin bespeak the artist's thorough knowledge of contemporary Byzantine work. Though the figures are somewhat massive, which distinguishes them from the images on Greek icons, they are well - proportioned. The Archangel's movement is conveyed. His cloak falls convincingly in elegant folds, and the folds of his tunic are no less beautiful. The Virgin's veil is depicted with the same sensitive feeling for the texture of the material. The modelling of the faces is marked by a special softness. The dark olive - green ground is visible only in the shadows. Further modelling is achieved by the gradual superimposition of dark - yellow ochre, each subsequent layer containing more white but in such proportions that the transition from one layer to another is almost invisible. The uppermost layer, covering the lightest parts, is nowhere completely white but retains a slightly yellowish hue.
Pink paint on top of the ochre sets off the cheeks, the forehead, the neck and the line of the nose. In general, the colouring of the Ustyug Annunciation is somewhat sombre, which, indeed, is typical of all icons of the pre - Mongolian period. The brightest colours are to be found in the upper part of the icon which shows the Ancient of Days supported by cherubs and glorified by seraphs. Here cinnabar is boldly combined with blue, azure, green and white. The harsh colour of this part of the icon, with its Slavonic inscriptions, is somewhat at odds with the overall colour scheme. This is certainly a consequence of the individual taste of the Novgorodian artist who strove for a special "sonority" of colour.
Very close stylistically to the Ustyug Annunciation is a magnificent two - sided icon of the Holy Face at the Tretyakov Gallery. There
The Holy Face
One is immediately struck by the difference of style in the images on the two sides of the icon, which were executed by different artists and probably at different periods.
The Adoration of the cross
An entirely different style marks the image on the reverse. The bold, free, dashing manner of painting, the sharp contrasts of light and shadow, the multicolour palette with its lemon - yellow, cinnabar, pink, azure and white tints indicate the hand of a Novgorodian master, a contemporary of the artists who decorated the Church of Nereditsa.
The last work belonging to this group is a magnificent icon from the Russian Museum bearing a half - length image of an Archangel.
It is extremely hard to date this group of icons with any accuracy. The Ustyug Annunciation could have been painted soon after the consecration of the Cathedral of S. George (1130 or 1140), but it is impossible to prove this as it was not the principal church icon like the icon of St. George and could therefore have been a later votive offering. The reverse of the Holy Face, the Adoration of the Cross, bears traces of having been painted at the end of the twelfth century.