A HIDDEN SIGNIFICANCE

Here is an icon with St. Nicholas — Nicholas of Myra — at its center:

(Courtesy of Maryhill Museum)

It is identified by its title inscription.  The inscription begins at left:

ѠБРАЗ СВЯТАГО
OBRAZ SVYATAGO
“IMAGE OF-THE-HOLY …

And it finishes at right:

НИКОЛЫ ЧУДОТВОРЦА
NIKOLUI CHUDOTVORTSA
…”NICHOLAS [the] WONDERWORKER

Putting them together, we get:

ѠБРАЗ СВЯТАГО НИКОЛЫ ЧУДОТВОРЦА
OBRAZ SVYATAGO NIKOLUI CHUDOTVORTSA
“IMAGE OF HOLY NICHOLAS THE WONDERWORKER.”

Nicholas holds a sword in one hand and a church in the other.  When he is depicted in this way, he is called “Nicholas of Mozhaisk.”  The title of the type originated in the belief that Nicholas was the miraculous defender of the city of Mozhaisk from the invading Tartars.  The church in his hand is sometimes shown as a miniature city.

To the left of Nicholas, we see Jesus in the clouds, and to the right, Mary.

Let’s take a closer look at the face of Nicholas:

Nicholas is flanked by saints on both sides.  Here are those at left:

From top:

“Holy Martyr Tatiana”

“Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Mary Magdalene”

“Holy Alexei, Metropolitan”

Here are those at right:

“Holy Great Martyr Anastasia”

“Holy Alexandra, Empress”

“Holy Olga, Princess”

The painter certainly had a definite way of painting faces — so much so that these saints all look very similar in facial features.

The icon is heavily gold leafed, and that enabled the painter to incise baroque ornamentation in the corners of the image and floral ornaments on the garments, such as we see on the robe of Nicholas:

Well, that covers most everything on the icon.  But if we left it at that, we would miss the most significant thing about the image.  Let’s look again at the names of the saints depicted:

Nicholas
Alexandra
Olga
Tatiana
Maria
Anastasia
Alexei

Now if you know anything at all about Russian history, those should sound very familiar — because they are the names of the last Russian Tsar and his family.  And that is the most significant thing about this icon; it represents the saints for whom the members of the ill-fated last Russian Imperial Family were named.

The icon was painted in what was then the Province of Chernigov, and is now the town of Shelomy in Bryansk Oblast, Russia.

If we look at this old map, there are three red dots from the top to the “Tschernigow” (Chernigov) name in large letters.  The third red dot down from the top is the Old Believer settlement of Starodub.  Go straight West from Starodub, and the first village you come to is “Schelomy” — Shelomy.  And if we continue West from Shelomy and cross the red border, we come to Wjetka — “Vetka.”  These were all Old Believer settlements.

An inscription on the reverse says the icon was painted by an Old Believer for presentation on the “Angel Day” — the name-saint day — of Tsar Nicholas, in 1906.

Now there is something odd about that, and it is that an Old Believer is not likely to have had any interest in painting anything for or having to do with the Tsar of Russia, whom Old Believers in general considered a heretic.  But it is very like that this particular Old Believer was one of the Eдиноверцы/Edinovertsui — that is, one of the Uniates.  The Uniates were a religious category that began in the latter part of the 18th century — an attempt by the State Russian Orthodox Church to make some accommodation that would allow Old Believers to have a certain unity with the State Church while still keeping their practice of using the old rituals.  Many Old Believers would have nothing to do with the arrangement, but some communities did make the transition.  The project seems to have really begun as an attempt to bring the Old Believers back into the State Church, but even though some accepted the Edinovertsui/Uniate designation, the attempt to make them fully “State Church” was a failure.  They preferred to keep their own ways.

MORE MULTIPLES

In the previous posting I discussed a multiple icon — one of those with four separate icon images on a single panel.  And on such icons we often — but not always — find a central image as well.

(Courtesy of Maryhill Museum)

As you see, that is the case with today’s icon.  You will recall (hey, it was only yesterday!) that on the previous icon, the central image was the Crucifixion.  Well, on today’s image it is a circle containing the so-called “Image Not Made by Hands”  — also known as the Mandylion.

If you have been a diligent student of my past postings, you will be able to easily read every inscription in the circle.

But just in case, I will translate the top and bottom inscriptions:
Top:

НЕРУКОТВОРЕННЫЙ ОБРАЗЪ
NERUKOTVORNENNUIY OBRAZ”
“NOT-HAND-MADE IMAGE”

In normal English, “The Not Made by Hands Image” or the “Image Not Made by Hands.”

And just under the face of Jesus, we find this:

СВАТЫЙ ОУБРУСЪ
SVYATUIY OUBRUS”
“HOLY CLOTH”

So yes, this is the “Abgar image” discussed in previous postings such as these two:

Now let’s identify the four main icon types on this multiple icon, beginning at upper left:

The first image we have also seen before in a previous posting.  Here it is with its title inscription:

The partly-abbreviated inscription reads:
ЖИВОНОСНЫЙ ИСТОЧНИКЪ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ
ZHIVONOSNUIY ISTOCHNIK” PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI

Literally, it means the Life- (Zhivo-) bearing (nosnui) Spring (Istochnik), but we can just call it the “Life-giving Spring.” or “Life-giving Fountain.”  You will find a discussion of the type here:

https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/a-somewhat-fishy-fountain-the-life-giving-spring-icons/

To that we need only add the name inscriptions of the two angels.  That at left is
СВЯТЫЙ МИХАИЛЪ АРХАНГЕЛ/Svyatuiy Mikhail Arkhangel/”Holy Michael, Archangel — and that at right is СВЯТЫЙ ГАВРИИЛЪ АРХАНГЕЛ/Svyatuiy Gavriil Arkhangel/”Holy Gabriel, Archangel.”

Now on to the second icon type.  Here it is with its title inscription:

It reads:
НЕЧАЕННЫЯ РАДОСТИ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ
NECHAENNUIYA RADOSTI PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI
“UNEXPECTED JOY MOST-HOLY GOD-BIRTHGIVER

In normal English, the “‘Unexpected Joy’ Most Holy Mother of God.”

The title is often found as Нечаянная Радость/Nechayannaya Radost’/”Unexpected Joy.”

I discussed the “Unexpected Joy type previously in some detail here:

https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/unexpected-joy-more-on-the-traditional-attitude-toward-icons/

To that explanation, I should add here a mention of the words extending from Mary to the kneeling man, and from him to Mary — their conversation:

As you can see, the line bearing Mary’s words is upside-down, to distinguish it from the man’s initial question, which is right-side-up.

He says to Mary,
О Госпоже, кто сие сотвори/O Gospozhe, kto sie [siya] sotvori/ “O Lady, who did this?”
Mary responds:
ты и протчия [прочии] грешники  грехами сына / Tui i protchiya [prochii] greshniki grekhami suina / “You and other sinners with sins my son …”

Mary’s response is cut short in this example.  What she replies in full is generally, “You and other sinners with [your] sins have crucified my son, like the Jews.” It is only the first part of a longer conversation.  So in this tale we find again the anti-Semitic motif that the “Jews” crucified Jesus — the notion that caused so much suffering and persecution of Jewish people over the centuries.

The tale of the “Unexpected Joy” icon is found in the literary work Руно орошенное/Runo oroshennoe/”Dew-wet Fleece, written by the hagiographer and saint Dimitriy Rostovskiy (1651-1709).  Customarily, icons of the “Unexpected Joy contain the text box seen in this example:

ЧЕЛОВЕКЪ НЕКИЙ БЕЗЗАКОННИКЪ ИМЕЯШЕ ПРАВИЛО ПОВСЕДНЕВНОЕ МОЛИТИСЯ КЪ ПРЕСВЯТЕЙ БОГОРОДИЦЕ СЛОВЕСИ АРХАНГЕЛЬСКАГО ЦЕЛОВАНИЯ

CHELOVEK NEKIY BEZZAKONNIK” IMEYASHE PRAVILO POVSEDNEVNOE
MOLITISYA K” PRESVYATEY BOGORODITSE SLOVECI ARKHANGEL’SKAGO TSELOVANIYA

“A CERTAIN LAWLESS MAN HAD A DAILY RULE TO PRAY TO THE MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD WITH THE WORDS OF THE ARCHANGEL’S GREETING.”

The “words of the Archangel’s greeting” are the words of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary at the Annunciation:  Радуйся, Благодатная! Господь с Тобою … / Raduysya, Blagodatnaya!  Gospod’ s Toboiu … /  Rejoice, Blessed One! The Lord is With You …”  Or as it is commonly rendered in English,  “Hail Mary, full of grace!  The Lord is with you …” etc.

Expect some variation in spelling and length of text from example to example.

The fourth icon image is at lower left:

As the small title inscription above Mary’s shoulder says, it is the

КАЗАНСКИЯ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ
KAZANSKIYA PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI
“KAZAN MOST-HOLY MOTHER OF GOD.”

Now as I hope you know, the “Kazan” image is one of the most famous in Russia.  You will find its story in this previous posting on “palladium” images:

https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/the-palladium-is-not-just-a-theater/

And now the last icon type on this multiple icon, at lower right:

Yes, it is that red-faced icon type of Mary so popular among the Old Believers, who considered fire a purifying force, and Mary — who bore Jesus in her womb — as filled with the fire of divinity.

As the title inscription above Mary’s shoulder at right says, this is the

ѠГНЕВИДНЫЯ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ
OGNEVIDNUIYA PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI
“‘FIRE-APPEARING’ MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD”

You will find the Ognevidnaya icon type discussed in this previous posting:

https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/618/

We should take a closer look at the rendering of the halo, because this painter ornamented that of Mary with painted jewels and pearls:

And here is a closer look at the face of the image:

We cannot finish today without identifying the border saints, which as I hope you recall, are commonly the saints for whom the members of the family ordering the icon are named.

Here are the first three at left:

From the top, they are;

Prepodobnuiy Feodor/Venerable Theodore
Svyatuiy Apostol” Petr”/Holy Apostle Peter (he carries a scroll with the “You are [Peter”] text, an the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven)

Svyatuiy Apostol’ i Evangelist Ioann Bogoslov/Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian

Here is the final saint at left:

He is Svyatuiy Mikhail” Arkhangel”/Holy Michael, Archangel — and he is in armor as leader of the heavenly armies, and carries a flaming sword and a trident-like lance.

Here are the first three saints in the right border:

They are:

Predpodobnaya Mariya Egipetska[ya]/Venerable Mary of Egypt

Prepodobnaya Evdokiya/Venerable Eudocia

Prepodobnaya Paraskovi[ya]/Venerable Parasceva

And the final saint and end of this posting’s discussion is:

Svyatuiy Svyashchennomuchenik Kharlampiy/Holy Priest-martyr Kharalampos

And that is it for today.