In an earlier posting, I talked about the very popular Marian icon type called in Church Slavic Vsem Skorbyashchim Radost, — the “Joy of All Who Suffer.” You may also find it titled Всех скорбящих Радость — Vsekh Skorbyashchikh Radost, which is the same name in Russian. The Skorbyashchim/Skorbyashchikh part means both “those who are afflicted” and “those who sorrow,” which is why some translate the title as “Joy of/to Those Who Sorrow.”
Today we will look at an interesting and common subtype of that icon. It is called Всех скорбящих Радость (с грошиками) — Vsekh Skorbyashchikh Radost S Groshikami, meaning “The Joy of All Who Suffer ‘With Coins.'” The example below — which appears to have been painted in oils — bears the title: ОБРАЗ СКОРБЯЩИЯ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ OBRAZ SKORBYASHCHIYA PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI “[THE] IMAGE OF [THE] ‘OF THE SUFFERING’ MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD” Looking at it, we can see why it is commonly called “With Coins”; it has coins on its surface. In most icons the coins are painted, but the maker of this example used real copper coins inserted into the panel:
Here is a half-kopek coin from 1898: And here is another from 1909. The С.П.Б. at the bottom indicates the coin is from the Saint Petersburg mint: Icons of this sub-type often have a brief inscription at the base stating the origin, as we see in the following example produced near the end of the Tsarist era — one of the new mass-produced, chromolithographed icons on tin, such as were offered by the firm of Jacquot and Bonacœur (in Russian Жако и Бонакер), which also produced other kinds of tin goods such as colorful boxes. These “printed tin” icons competed with the business of icon painters and further contributed to their decline:
The problem with these colorful old icons on metal is that when scratched or exposed to moisture, they tend to rust very easily, though they were quite attractive to the ordinary Russian buyer when new.
Here is its title inscription, in beautiful traditional lettering, but in Russian rather than Church Slavic:
And here is the “origin” inscription:
“The true likeness of the wonderworking image of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Suffer”; it turned up after a thunderstorm that broke out the 23 of July in the year 1888 over the chapel located at St. Petersburg, in the area adjacent to the glass factory.”
The traditional story relates that there were several icons in the chapel. It was struck by lightning, and everything inside was charred, with the exception of one icon that was found where it had fallen face down on the floor. When it was turned over, the dark surface of the image had become fresh and clear, and sticking to the surface were eleven coins from the poor box that had been shattered by the lightning strike. Now, given the religious mind of ordinary Russians at that time, this event that sounds rather ordinary to us today was seen then as remarkably miraculous. Within a day of the event, crowds of pilgrims gathered at the chapel, and the fame of the image spread far and wide, drawing even greater masses of people. And then followed the inevitable “miraculous” healings that are associated with such images in Eastern Orthodoxy.
As we have seen, this image is a variation on the popular “Joy of All Who Suffer” type, and it is said that the image that was eventually transformed by lightning into the “With Coins’ variant was originally found floating in the Neva River by a member of the Kurakin family; later a relative, a merchant named Matveev, donated the icon to the chapel in the village of Klochka, not far from the glassworks, by St. Petersburg. You probably noticed the two inscribed banners at Mary’s sides, which are common to this sub-type. Loosely translated, they are:
NAGIM’ ODYEYANIE —- “CLOTHER OF THE NAKED”
And: BOL”NUIM’ ISTSYELENIE — “HEALER OF THE ILL”
These inscriptions illustrate what is happening in the icon: at left an angel holds out clothing to the naked, and at right another angel stands behind the ill who have come to Mary for healing.
It is important to know the date of appearance of the so-called “wonderworking” Marian icons, because we know that an icon cannot be earlier than the time of its appearance. So if you happen to be offered an icon of the “Joy of All Who Suffer ‘With Coins'” as an 18th-century icon, you will know that dating is impossible, given that the image did not exist prior to 1888. The same rule of thumb applies to saints, whose icons are not likely to be found before the date of “glorification” (the Russian equivalent of canonization) of the saint depicted. The “With Coins” sub-type of the “Joy of All Who Suffer” is also often referred to as Всех скорбящих Радость близ Стеклянного завода — Vsekh Skorbyashchikh Radost” Bliz Steklyannogo Zavoda — “The Joy of All Who Suffer ‘Near The Glass Factory.'”