When I began this site, I did not know if anyone would read it. Now I am surprised at the numbers who do.
So far, I have tried to include information I would have wanted to know when I first began to research icons decades ago. Now is your chance to make suggestions about possible future topics here. What aspect of icons and their history would you like to see postings about? I make no guarantees, but I am certainly open to your ideas.
I am also, of course, interested in WHY people are reading this site. I already know that some of you are art restorers, some artists, some dealers in icons or collectors of icons, some are in educational institutions and some are interested in the history and interpretation of icons for various other reasons. So if you are a subscriber to the site or a regular reader, I would appreciate a note from you letting me know WHY you are here, with any other comments you may wish to make. Just click on the “Leave a Reply” link at the bottom of any posted article (including this one). And of course as usual, your comment will only be seen by me, unless you request otherwise.
Now, so that there will be at least some educational content in this posting, here is a late Russian icon. If you are a long-term reader here, you should be able to translate the inscriptions identifying the saints.
Here is the saint at left:
The inscription reads: Св МАРΘА — Sv[yataya] Marfa (“Holy Martha”); remember that the letter Θ, which is pronounced “th” in Greek, is pronounced “f” in Church Slavic and Russian, which have no “th” sound.
And here is the saint at right:
The inscription reads: Св МАРИЯ — Sv[ataya] Mariya (“Holy Mary”). Notice that in the icon inscription, the second to last letter is written as an I with two dots above it, and the last letter looks like a capital “A” with a vertical line down the center of the bottom; that is the old letter form for writing the “ya” sound. It is sometimes also written as an I connected by a horizontal line to an A.
If you are familiar with the Bible (which is a tremendous help in the study of icons), you will recognize these two women — Martha and Mary — as the subject of a well-known story:
38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he [Jesus] entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was bothered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Ask her therefore to help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Martha and Mary are also found in John 11:1-44 and 12:1-8