Today’s icon is one of those that did not become popular until recent times, though the icon on which the copies are based existed somewhat earlier. Here is a contemporary Russian image, obviously painted in a modern style:
It bears the inscription at both sides,
АЗЪ ЕСМЬ С ВАМИ И НИКТОЖЕ НА ВЫ
AZ ESM’ S VAMI I NIKTOZHE NA VUI
“I Am With You, and No One Against You.”
It is a variant on the biblical line from Romans 8:31:
“If God be for us, who can be against us?“
АЩЕ Б[О]ГЪ ПО НАСЪ, КТО НА НЫ
ASHCHE BOG PO NAS, KTO NA NUI
There is, however, another inscription at the base. It reads:
ЛЕУШИНСКIЯ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ
LEUSHINSKIYA PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI
“THE LEUSHINO MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD.”
This “Leushino” or “Leushinskaya” icon type takes its name from the Leushinskiy Monastery — actually a convent for nuns — at the village of Leushino. It was founded in 1875. By 1917, about 700 women lived there. Here is the church at the Monastery:
In 1862, when the Leushinskiy Monastery was still under construction, a merchant from Gatchina named Gavriil Medvedev had an icon painted and donated it to the project. It was eventually placed in the new cathedral (1889) that had been built under Abbess Taisiya Solopova.
Here is a 1909 image of Taisiya at the nun’s residence in Leushino:
The Leushinskiy Monastery had an icon-painting workshop, and copies of the icon were made there, one of which was placed in the iconostasis of the Leushinsky Metochion (подворье/podvor’e) in St. Petersburg — a kind of “branch” of the Leushino Monastery.
Some copies of the icon are full-length, and show Mary either seated on a throne or standing, but the most common examples — like the modern image on this page — depict Mary to the waist.
A copy of the icon was also made for John of Kronstadt, who called it Спасительницей России — Spasitel’nitsey Rossii — “Savioress of Russia.” Taken to the St. George Kozeletskiy (Danivskyy) convent in Chernigov diocese (now Chernihiv, Ukraine), it developed a reputation as a chudotvornaya image — a “wonder-working” icon (there is more than one supposedly “wonder-working” copy of this type). The popularity of this image grew tremendously in the late 20th-early 21st century, which is why most examples one sees are recent. It is used today in hope for healing of illness, for girls to find a husband, for conceiving a first-born child, for settling family quarrels, and so on. It was placed on the official list of “wonder-working” icons by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on April 23, 2002.
Though the formal title of the icon type is the Leushinskaya, it is more often known by the other words on it as the “I Am With You and No One Against You” icon.
Some suspect the Leuskhinskaya icon was based on the Sistine Madonna of Raphael:
There is another icon type associated with the Leushino Monastery. It is called the Khlebnaya/Хлебная — “Of Bread” type. It was a copy brought to the Monastery by a pilgrim from the Solovetsk Monastery, where it is said to have first “appeared” in the 16th century.
A Moscow boyar named Feodor Kolychev went to the Solovetsk Monastery and became a novice there, taking the name Filipp. He was set to work in the monastery bakery.
In 1540, Mary is said to have revealed her icon to him. He placed it in the bakery and prayed before it as he baked bread, thus the name “Of Bread” or “‘Bread’ Most Holy Mother of God” given the type. After Filipp died in 1569, the icon became one of the noted sacred objects of the Solovetsk Monastery, where it remained until the Monastery was closed. At some time the original “Bread” icon was lost, but a copy was taken, as we have seen, from Solovetsk to the Leushino Convent. There it is also said to have been placed in the bakery, where those coming for bread bowed before it.
In 1906, a separate chapel was built for the “Bread” icon. It is said to have been lost during flooding in the 1930s. During the blockade of St. Petersburg in the winter of 1941, a woman named Nina Mikhailovna Fedorovna said her mother — pushed to the ground by a sailor during the shelling — found an icon of the type lying on the ground in the snow, along with two other icons — one John the Theologian, and the other St. Nikolai/Nicholas. And as these stories go, the icon again began to work miracles — or at least events that were interpreted as such by the “believers.”
Here is the “Bread” icon type:
As you can see, it is basically the “Tikhvin” icon type, but made into a “Praise of the Mother of God” icon by the addition of the figures in the vine surrounding the main image. It is often found in lists of Marian icons as the “Tikhvinskaya-Khlebnaya.” I suspect there is some confusion of this icon type with the history of the “Leushinskaya” type, which is often referred to in the literature as a “Praise of the Mother of God” type.
Let’s take a look at the inscription near the base:
Kopiya chudotvornoy ikonui B[o]zhiey Materi Imenuemoy Khlyebennoiu
“Copy of the Wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God called “Of Bread.”