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#1 Jim Kalas

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Posted 22 March 2010 - 11:30 PM

I was recently gifted an icon and am trying to identify what it portrays. I was told it was an 18th century painting of possibly Balkan origin. I have included a picture as well as several details of the icon.
I love icons and have several but I have never seen one similar to this.
Is the depicted woman climbing the stairs Panagia?
She appears to be climbing the stairs to a bishop on the top. A king is depicted in the alcove under the stairs.
Any help with identifying the theme of this artwork and clues to its possible origin would be greatly appreciated.
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#2 Father David Moser

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 12:00 AM

The icon appears to be the Entry of the Virgin into the Temple. The figure under the stairs is the Prophet and King David (the exact symbolism here I don't know, but there are many possible reasons for his inclusion in this icon). The two main figures in the first image you posted are Joakim and Anna, the parents of the Virgin.
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#3 Jim Kalas

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 12:34 AM

Father David,
Thank you very much for your enlightening reply! So am I correct to assume the person at the top of the stairs is a Jewish high priest?
Jim

#4 Olga

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 08:47 AM

This is indeed an icon of the Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple. The figure under the stairs is King David, both from the written inscription, and because the Virgin was descended from the House of David. David is mentioned several times in the hymnography for this feast, as her ancestor, and notably in one of the Old Testament readings at Vespers, which refers to the Ark of the Covenant, which the Church sees as a prefiguration and prophecy of the Mother of God, the new Ark of salvation:

Thus all the work that King Solomon did on the house of the Lord was finished. Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. And they brought up the ark of the Lord, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. And King Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles. There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.

The Ypakoe for the feast is also typical:

Cry out, O David, what is this present feast? Is it for her of whom you have sung in the Book of Psalms, calling her Daughter, Child of God and Virgin, saying: "Her companions the virgins who follow her shall be mystically led to the King?" Make this feast to be held in honour throughout all the world by those who cry: The Mother of God is coming among us, mediator of salvation.

The young women bearing candles behind Sts Joachim and Anna in the icon are the virgins referred to in this hymn.

The priest at the top of the stairs is Zachariah, the father of St John the Baptist, who was the high priest at the time. He, too, is mentioned several times liturgically. From Vespers:

Today let us, the faithful, dance for joy, and sing to the Lord with psalms and hymns, as we venerate His holy tabernacle, the living ark, that contained the Word who cannot be contained. A young child in the flesh, she is offered in wondrous fashion to the Lord, and with rejoicing, Zachariah, the great high priest, receives her as the dwelling place of God.

An interesting feature of this icon is the long series of steps which the young Virgin will climb. The majority of icons I have seen of this feast show her before three or so steps. In this icon, the many steps refer to another Old Testament prefiguration of the Mother of God, that of Jacob's ladder. The account of Jacob's dream in Genesis is one of the Vespers OT readings for the Dormition of the Mother of God:

Jacob left Beersheba, and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place, and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down there to sleep. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it.” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

This verse is from Matins of the Annunciation:

The Holy Scriptures speak of you mystically, Mother of the Most High. For Jacob said in days of old as he saw the ladder that prefigured you: This is the ladder on which God shall tread. Therefore you rightly hear the salutation: Hail, Lady full of grace, the Lord is with you.

I hope this helps. Feel free to ask more questions if you have them.

Edited by Olga, 23 March 2010 - 12:25 PM.


#5 Father David Moser

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 01:22 PM

Olga,

The liturgical references include the reasons for the inclusion of the Prophet and King David that I already knew, thank you for giving the reference. My further question about that is the position of his image in the icon (in an alcove under the stairs). Is there any particular significance to that or is it simply the choice of the iconographer?

Fr David Moser

#6 Jim Kalas

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 01:23 PM

Olga,
Thank you very much for your help. Can you recommend any resource that might help in identifying the icon's origins by its style or other visual clues.
I have been told that it is not Russian or Greek. I am sure those who have studied the evolution of this art probably are familiar with the nuances of style that might identify its probable age or origin. I have had a love of this art for many years and the role in our Orthodox faith, and I am happy that I have been given the privilege of being the next caretaker of this wonderful piece of art that I am sure has a long and interesting provenance. Thank you again Olga, and to Father David for your enlightenment.

#7 Olga

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 08:34 AM

Jim, I would be very surprised if this icon is anything but Greek, or possibly Cypriot. The inscriptions for King David and Prophet Zachariah are definitely written in Greek. It would be safe to rule out Balkan countries like Bulgaria, Serbia and, further afield, Romania, as these countries all used Slavonic as the language of iconographic inscriptions at the time (18th century). Russia and Ukraine can likewise be ruled out, as icons from these places also used Slavonic, not Greek.

The colours of the young Virgin's clothes are the reverse of what is usually found in Orthodox iconography - a blue outer garment, over a red tunic, which is more typical of western religious art. This is not unusual, as many parts of Greece during the Ottoman period, including many of the islands, were under administration by western powers, notably Venice. So this reversal of the colours is not unusual in Greek and Cypriot icons of the period. However, the content and composition of this icon is canonical. I would expect haloes surrounding the saints in this icon (King David, Joachim and Anna, Zachariah), but there could be an explanation for this: The haloes may well have been there to begin with, but in the form of a metal halo fixed onto the icon, and later lost or removed. It appears that some of the puncture marks around the heads of some of these figures may indicate this was the case.

Edited by Olga, 24 March 2010 - 09:05 AM.


#8 Olga

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 09:15 AM

My further question about that is the position of his image in the icon (in an alcove under the stairs). Is there any particular significance to that or is it simply the choice of the iconographer?


Fr David, it seems that this detail may well have been the choice of the iconographer, as I have not come across other examples of this. However, I would not regard the inclusion of this motif as wrong, for the reasons I stated in my earlier post. A possibility is that the patron who commissioned the icon may have had King David as his patron saint, and the inclusion of the Psalmist in the icon was a way of acknowledging him who wished the icon to be painted.

#9 Carolyn C.

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 07:23 AM

I bought a tiny book consisting of icons on each page at the host church, Russian Orthodox, at the Sunday of Orthodoxy vespers.  There is one icon that I can't identify.  It is a Greek icon of an elderly woman in dark monastic robes holding a cross in her right hand and an icon of the Annunciation in her left hand.  She must be a martyr.  There is a Greek inscription on the left of the icon and on the right of the icon, but I can't read Greek.  The Greek inscription on the front cover of the tiny book is T H N O Epsilon.  Does anyone have any idea who this saint could be?  The little book is only an inch in size.  I've never seen anything like it  The other icons in this book are of the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Presentation in the Temple, the Theophany, the Transfiguration, the Entrance into Jerusalem, and the Crucifixion.   Thank you for any help you can give me.  



#10 Kosta

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 07:44 AM

Do you mean the final letter in THNO is an epsilon 'E',  or the greek letter Sigma "s"?  If its an S, then its from the famous church of the Mother of God Megalochari on the Greek island of Tinos.

 

The icon would depict the elderly St Pelagia of Tinos, who was the nun that discovered the icon in 1822 after a series of visions:

 

 

st146_300.jpg



#11 Carolyn C.

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Posted 03 September 2015 - 07:33 AM

Dear Kosta,

 

     This thank you is about 2 1/2 years late, but I am very grateful to you for all the trouble you went through to answer my question.  I don't know how I forgot to post a thank you at the time.  That is exactly the icon that I was uncertain about and the tiny wooden book must have been a souvenir that someone brought back from Tinos. 

 

     Speaking of Greek saints, have you ever heard of St. Archondia [St. Archonton; St. Archontinus] whose feast day is September 3?  I posted a more detailed query about this saint elsewhere on this Specific Icons and Images thread.  All I can find of this saint is that he was a martyr.

 

     Thank you for your patience.                                                                                                                Sincerely, Carolyn






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