An offertory candle signed 'Ralli' (lower left) oil on canvas 56 x 38 cm.
PROVENANCE: Christies London, Sale of 11.5.1984, lot 139. Acquired from the above sale by the present owner.
Capturing the beauty of holiness and the holiness of beauty, this wonderful vignette of peasant piety evokes a noble sentiment of relaxed meditation and pensive tenderness. "Ralli's art is best represented in his 'prayer scenes' in which idealised figures immersed in a spiritual ambiance convey a feeling of veneration and religiosity. The human forms harmoniously match the austerity of the Byzantine church, which the artist became familiar with during his travels to Mt. Athos, Meteora and other parts of mainland Greece."1 (Compare Young woman lighting a candle in a church, Athens, Y. Perdios collection.)
Moulded by a beam of invading light, the beautiful face of the young Greek maiden strongly contrasts with the dark interior lit by the flickering candles, while in the dim light, four sacred figures painted on the background wall loom as transcendental presences, enhancing the poetry of the scene. As noted by former Athens National Gallery Director A. Ioannou, "the Orthodox religious atmosphere in the dark interior of a small Greek village church could have found no better interpreter than Ralli."2
1. M. Papanikolaou, Greek Genre Painting of the Nineteenth Century [in Greek], Thessaloniki, 1978, pp. 8-9. 2. A. Ioannou, Greek Painting, Melissa publ., Athens 1974, p. 244.