FOUR MARIAN ICON TYPES

Here is another multiple icon — this time with no quarter devoted only to various saints.  Instead, all four main images are Marian icons:

(Courtesy of Maryhill Museum)

First — at upper left — is the type you should be very familiar with by now — the “Joy to All Who Suffer.”  So we need not deal with that one, other than to remind you that any accompanying saints vary from example to example.  You will find a description of the type in this previous posting, as well as in others via the archives:

https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/a-very-popular-marian-image-the-joy-of-all-who-suffer/

At upper right we find this:

The title inscription above the shoulder identifies it as the ФЕОДОРОВСКЯ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ/FEODOROVSKAYA PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI — the “‘FEODOROV’ MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD.”

The Feodorovskaya or “Theodore” icon is another of those mistakenly attributed by tradition to St. Luke.  Its tale says it was in Russia as early as the beginning of the 12th century, and was placed in a monastery in Gorodets that was then burned by Batu Khan and his Mongol horde.  Yet supposedly the icon survived the flames.

The tale continues with Prince Vasiliy of Kostroma (younger brother of Alexander Nevskiy), who got lost in the forest while hunting near Kostroma on August 16, 1239.  He noticed an icon in a pine tree (there’s that common “icon in a tree” motif again).  When he attempted to take the icon down, it suddenly rose up into the air.  Vasiliy then went into Kostroma and told the people and clergy there about the icon, and when they went to look for it, they found it was there in the forest again.  So after praying before the icon, they took it into Kostroma and placed it in the cathedral, where it attracted crowds.  Supposedly, while Vasiliy was out hunting, a richly-dressed warrior was seen walking through Kostroma’s streets, carrying an icon in his hands.  This was understood to be a visitation by the warrior saint Feodor/Theodore, and so the icon was called the “Feodor/Theodore” icon — the Feodorovskaya.

The tale relates that when the Kostroma Cathedral then burnt, the Feodorovskaya icon was again found unharmed in the ashes.

The Tatars again came to pillage the city in 1260, but the Prince took the Feodorovskaya icon into battle, and the legend says that such a brilliant and dazzling light shone from it that it blinded and burned the Tatars, who fled in disarray.

Later the Kostroma Cathedral again caught fire, and when the people went to rescue the icon, they found it hovering above the flames.  The people prayed to have it not abandon them because of their sins, and it descended and was retrieved, and later placed in a stone church.

The Fedorovskaya icon was carried by a group of Kostroma clergy in their meeting with a delegation of clergy and boyars and others from Moscow, who had come bearing the Vladimir icon to ask the young Mikhail Feodorovich to become Tsar.  Eventually he was persuaded, and became the first Tsar of the House of Romanov — the ruling Dynasty that ended with the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917.  So the Feodorovskaya icon was considered an important image for the Romanovs.

Here is the icon type at lower left:

The title above her shoulder reads:

ОТ БЕД СТРAЖДУЩИХЪ
OT BED STRAZHDUSHCHIKH”

Ot Bed Strazhdushchikh means “Of the Suffering from Distress,” but this type is sometimes given the fuller title Избавление От Бед Страждущих — Izbavlenie Ot Bed Strazhdushchikh — “Deliverance of the Suffering From Distress” — which makes a bit more sense. In the Canon to the Mother of God are the words Богородица Владычица, поспеши и от бед избавь нас/Bogoroditsa Vladuichitsa, pospeshi i ot bed izabav’ nas — “Mother of God, Mistress, hasten and from distress deliver us.”  Little is known of its origin, but it was a popular image among the Old Believers.

Here is the icon type at lower right:

Now as you can tell, it is a version of the Млекопитательница/Mlekopitatelnitsa/”Milk-Nourishing” icon type, but this example is given the title inscription

БЛАЖЕННОЕ ЧРЕВО ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ
BLAZHENNOE CHREVO PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI
“‘BLESSED WOMB’ MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD

The “Blessed Womb” type is essentially the same in appearance as the Barlovskaya icon, which supposedly appeard in 1392.  But be careful — there is also a locally-venerated icon called “Blessed Womb” that looks nothing like this type.  Here is an example:

It is not hard to tell that the “Blessed Womb” title derives from Luke 11:27:  “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts that you have sucked.”

To complete the discussion of this multiple icon, we need only look at the image in the central circle:

The name inscription identifies him as СВЯТЫЙ РАФАИЛЪ АРХАНГЕЛ/SVYATUIY RAFAIL ARKHANGEL/”HOLY ARCHANGE RAPHAEL.

Raphael was considered an angel of healing, and also a patron of travelers.

 

 

YOU NEED A PENIS TO PAINT AN ICON

Well, not to use as a brush.  And not always any more.

Today many women paint icons, both within and outside of Russian Orthodoxy.  There are Catholic female iconographers, Anglican and Episcopal female iconographers, and female iconographers with no formal religious affiliation at all.  Some of them even subscribe to this blog.

But if you happened to live in Russia prior to the 20th century, it was very much the way things were — you needed a penis to paint an icon.  Icon painting was strictly a male occupation, and it would have been rather shocking for a woman to have even contemplated  becoming an iconographer.

Of course women at that time could do iconographic images in needlework for church textiles, banners, and so on — but still the designs for such church embroidery were generally done by males; the women just supplied the handpower to stitch and embroider them.

This exclusion of women from icon painting was very much the rule right up until about the early 20th century, when with the disruption of the Russian government and increasing problems in the Russian Orthodox Church, female-painted icons began to appear.  The painting of icons by some women continued even through the suppression of icon painting during the Soviet era, and then with the fall of Communism, it seemed as though icon painting in Russia was suddenly flooded with females.

Today in Russia, an icon painted by a woman is a very common thing, and women are often heavily represented in icon painting studios.  But it is important to note that the appearance of the female icon painter in Russian Orthodoxy was largely a 20th century phenomenon and very much restricted to the State Russian Orthodox Church.  The woman who opened the way for other female icon painters was Mariya Nikolaevna Sokolova (1899-1981), later known as Iulianiya/Juliania.  Already working in the arts, she began studying icon painting in the 1920s, and eventually taught it herself.

Mariya Nikolaevna Sokolova/Julianiya

Among the traditional Old Believers, however, the centuries-long restrictions against women painting icons are still very much in force.  One contemporary Old Believer icon painter in Russia remarked during an interview that it was easy to recognize icons painted by women, because they made the saints look “sugary and doll-like,” and he finished by saying that Женщины у староверов не пишут иконы — “Old Believer women do not paint icons.”

ANOTHER FROM THE OLD BELIEVERS

Here is another multiple icon.

(Courtesy of Maryhill Museum)

Long-time addicts — I mean readers — on this site should be able to identify both top images as well as that at lower right, because they have all been discussed here previously.  And you do remember everything I have posted here in the last nine-plus years, don’t you?

Well, in case you do not, I will talk about them briefly.

At upper left we see this:

The title inscription at top is heavily abbreviated.  It reads:

УСЕКНОВЕНИЕ ЧЕСТНЫЯ ГЛАВЫ СЛАВНАГО ПРОРОКА ИОАННА ПРЕДТЕЧИ

USEKNOVENIE CHESTNUIYA GLAVUI SLVANAGO PROROKA IOANNA PREDTECHI

“CUTTING OFF OF THE HONORABLE HEAD OF THE GLORIOUS PROPHET JOHN THE FORERUNNER”

It depicts the story from the New Testament in two scenes:  the beheading of John at left, and the presentation of the head on a salver to Salome at right.

Now this icon type had a special meaning for Old Believers.  They saw it not only as relating to John, but also as a symbol that with the great schism in the Russian Church in the mid-1600s, the head had been cut off the “true” Orthodox Church, which of course the Old Believers considered to be themselves, and not the State Orthodox Church, which they saw as an heretical usurper.  It is said that some Old Believer iconographers even depicted the executioner of John with features quite like those of Peter the Great, who was notorious for the wanting all Russian men to cut their beards — though he eased up a bit eventually and let men keep their beards if they paid a beard tax.  Now this may seem odd to us, but in the Russia of that time — and particularly among the Old Believers — beards were seen as essential to a grown male, and to shave off the beard was not only thought sinful but also lascivious, because it made men too sexually attractive, even to other men.  So that tells us a great deal about human nature and the flexibility of gender roles.

One sometimes sees related but similarly gory icons of just the head of John on a salver.  When I met a young icon painter in an Old Believer community many years go, that was the first of his works that he showed me.  Here is an example of such an icon:

That icon type also had a special significance for Old Believers.  Praying before it was a kind of folk remedy for headaches.

The second icon type on the multiple icon is this:

The title inscription reads:
ВОСКРЕСЕНИЕ ХРИСТОВО
VOSRESENIE KHRISTOVO
“RESURRECTION OF CHRIST”

I have discussed Resurrection icons in great detail in this previous posting, and everything in the image above is explained in it:

https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2019/01/21/a-very-detailed-resurrection-icon/

Now we will jump to the image at lower right, and leave the “saints” quarter for later.  Here the Marian icon is, with its title inscription below it:

It reads:

УТОЛИ БОЛЕЗНИ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ
UTOLI BOLEZNI PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI
“‘SOOTH THE ILLS’ MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD”

It is discussed in this previous posting:

https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/the-sooth-my-sorrows-image/

Gee, maybe if I keep this up, and can just eventually refer you all to previous postings instead of having to write anything more.  A lot of information accumulates in nine years.

I will point out, however, the finger position on Mary’s right hand.  By now you should recognize it as the Old Believer blessing position, and that identifies this as an Old Believer icon.

I should also mention the text inscription on the scroll held by the child Jesus:

Судъ праведенъ судите милость и щедроты творите кождо искреннему своему а вдовицы сира и пришельца и убога не насильствуйте, и злобы брата своего не вспоминайте.

It comes from Zachariah 7:9-10 (or 8-10 in Septuagint numeration). It begins with “Judge righteous judgment”:

Here is the saint’s quarter at lower left:

They are, from top left:

Kseniya Prepodobnaya/”Venerable Xenia”
Pravednaya Anna/”Righteous Anna”
Apostol Iakov/”Apostle Jacob/James”
Feodosia/”Theodosiya”
Ioakim/”Joachim” — Anna’s husband
Iustiniya/”Justinia
Kipriyan”/”Cyprian”

Here is the central Crucifixion:

Everything in it is explained in these previous postings:

https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/the-instant-expert-in-russian-crosses/

https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/more-cross-talk/

You might, however, be initially puzzled by the letters below the main crossbeam:

The key to the mystery is that the inscription is heavily abbreviated, and it is read by jumping left to right, left to right, repeatedly.  When that is done, the inscription is recognized as:

NIKA, meaning “He [Christ] Conquers” (the first two letters НИ at left with the last two letters КА at right, excluding the IC XC abbreviation for “Jesus Christ.”

Then come the left-right pair Р Г for Raspyatie Gospodne — “Crucifixion of the Lord.”

Then Ц С for Tsar Slavui — “King of Glory>”

Then С Б for Suin” Bozhiy — “Son of God.”

And finally the identifiers  К Т  — which usually come lower, beside the spear and sponge.  K, abbreviating КОПИЕ — KOPIE, meaning “lance,” “spear.”   And T, abbreviating  ТРОСТЬ — TROST’, meaning the reed/rod, with the sponge at its top.

And here is Gospod’ Savaof/”Lord Sabaoth” — God the Father, at top center:

His fingers too are in the Old Believer blessing position.  The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove is in the circle just below him.

Finally, here are the two border saints.

At left is Svyatuiy Prorok Moisey/”Holy Prophet Moses,” holding his tablets with the Ten Commandments:

At right is Svyataya Prepodobnaya Feodosiya/”Holy Venerable Theodosia.”

Now of course you noticed that the background of this icon — the svyet or “light” — is blue.  A painted svyet made the icon cheaper for the purchaser, and it also saved time for the painter or painters.