FAMILY AND PATRONAL ICONS

In a previous posting I mentioned the семейная икона (semeinaya icona). In Russian, семейство (semeistvo) means “family”; so a семейная / semeinaya icon is a “family icon.” A family icon depicts the saints for whom the members of a family are named. When one comes across an icon with a gathering of saints that seem to have been put together for no obvious reason, it is most likely to be a “family” icon. Such an icon often includes the generic image of the “Guardian Angel,” but not always.  Here is an example:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

It depicts the martyr Khrisanf (Chrysanthos), Thomas Patriarch of Constantinople, Archbishop Evfimiy (Euthemios), Patriarch Sofroniy (Sophronios) of Jerusalem, and the Martyr Daria, with Jesus blessing from the clouds above.

Remember to distinguish the “family” icon, from the патрональная икона — patronal’naya ikona — meaning the “patronal” icon. A “patronal” icon traditionally depicts a saint for whom an individual is named in baptism, his or her “patron saint” as we would say in the West.  It is sometimes called an именная икона — immenaya ikona — a “name” icon, or a тезоименная икона — a “name-sake” icon.  In modern Russian Orthodoxy an icon depicting a single saint may not always be one’s “name day” (also called “angel day) saint, but also possibly one chosen by an individual as a special protector. Here is an example of a patronal icon depicting the Martyr Sophia:

sofpat

A tradition  in the making of icons for Russian royalty in the 17th and 18th centuries was the painting of a patronal icon for a newborn child on a wooden panel cut to the length of the child, and painted with the child’s name saint.  Such an icon is called a мерная икона — mernaya ikona “measure” icon.  In modern Russia the practice has been revived for icons ordered by ordinary people.

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