The traditional image of The Old Testament Trinity was painted in tempra
on wood, c. 1410, by the Russian monk and inconographer Andrei Rublev. He created
the icon in memory of Sergius of Radonezh, founder of the Monastery of the Trinity
at Zagorsk, and it originally hung above St. Sergiusís tomb. Now badly damaged, this
masterpiece of Russian icon-painting resides in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
It depicts as angels the three mysterious visitors to Abraham and Sarah at the Oaks of
Mamre (Gen. 18:2), who symbolically represent the Holy Trinity according to
Orthodox tradition. Their faces are essentially identical, portraying the equality of
the three Persons in the view of some scholars who continue to debate who is who but
agree that Rublevís portrayal highlights their non-amalgamation and inseparability—the
mystery at the heart of Christian faith. The geometric properties of the composition
have fascinated artists and art historians. Painter Alexander Voloshinov points out that
the rectangle of the Trinity "raises a succession of circumferences related to each other
by the golden proportion" of Euclid ("The Old Testament Trinity of Andrey Rublyov:
Geometry and Philosophy," LEONARDO, vol. 32, no. 2, p. 105). It is a constant ratio,
a standard of beauty derived during the 5th century B.C., and used in the design of the
Parthenon. At the center of the circle of angels is a chalice-like bowl containing the food
Abraham prepared for his guests and symbolizing the Eucharist—the continuing
renewal of the new covenant between God and us.
Photo: © Scala/Art Resource, NY.