Today’s icon is another of those Marian images often found in Russian icons of the 19th century.  It is called Взыскание Погибших — Vzuiskanie Pogibshikh — the “Seeker of the Lost.”

Its origin story says that in the middle of the 18th century, there was a pious peasant in Kaluga Province, named Feodot Alekseevich Obukhov,  He donated utensils and icons to his poor parish church, which was in the village of Bor.  One day he was out in the rural areas between villages in his sleigh when he was caught in a freezing blizzard.  He found himself on the edge of an impassable ravine, with his horses exhausted.  He prayed to Mary, telling her that if she would rescue him, he would have a copy of her icon made and placed in the village church.  Then he did what people in such circumstances are always told not to do — he lay down in his sleigh and fell asleep.

(Courtesy of
(Courtesy of

In a neighboring village, another peasant was by his window when he heard a voice saying “Take.”  He went outside and found Obukhov there, asleep and half-frozen in his sleigh.  He brought him inside and warmed him up.  So Obukhov was saved, and to keep his vow, he had a copy made of the icon that was in the Volkhov church in Orlov Province, said to have been painted in 1707.

There is more than one “Seeker of the Lost” icon type, variable in form, and they are usually divided according to the place where each was celebrated:  there is the Belevskaya, the Borskaya, the Volzhskaya, and the Zvonarskaya, and there is of course some confusion among them.  Nonetheless, the image most commonly found under that title in icons of the 19th century is much like the example in the photo on this page.

On looking at it, with the rounded window in the left background and a tree in the distance, one cannot help feeling it was based on some Western European prototype — a “Madonna in a palace.”

The border saints are at left the Guardian Angel and Ekaterina (Catherine); and at right Login Sotnik — that is, the Centurion Longinus, and a female saint whose inscription is too faint to read in the photo.


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