This icon combines two types relating to the Passion of Jesus. And in addition, it has an inset brass quadriptych (four-panel icon) — the kind commonly referred to as a “flatiron” because its shape when closed is like the old-fashioned kind of iron heated on a stove.
It is not unusual to find one or more cast metal icons inserted into a wooden panel, which sometimes is painted with other images, and sometimes just serves as a holder for the metal icon. Brass crosses are often inset. Such combination wood and metal icons were particularly popular among the Old Believers.
First, let’s look at the title inscription at the top. It begins at top left and continues at top right:
ОБРАЗ СНЯТIЕ СО КРЕСТА И ПО –
OBRAZ SNYATIE SO KRESTA I PO –
– ЛОЖЕНIЕ ВО ГРОБЪ ГОСПОДА НАШЕГО IСУСА ХРИСТА
– LOZHENIE VO GROB” GOSPODA NASHEGO ISUSA KHRISTA
If we join them, we get the full title:
ОБРАЗ СНЯТIЕ СО КРЕСТА И ПОЛОЖЕНIЕ ВО ГРОБЪ ГОСПОДА НАШЕГО IСУСА ХРИСТА
OBRAZ SNYATIE SO KRESTA I POLOZHENIE VO GROB” GOSPODA NASHEGO ISUSA KHRISTA
“IMAGE OF THE REMOVAL FROM THE CROSS AND PLACING IN THE TOMB OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST”
And that is what is depicted. In the upper third, we see the “Removal from the Cross”:
Let’s look at the elements comprising it:
In the center we see Jesus being lifted down from the cross.
At top center is Gospod’ Savaof/”Lord Sabaoth” — God the Father, and below him is a circle with the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove:
At the sides of the upper crosspiece are the СОЛНЦЕ/”SUN” at left, and at right the ЛУНА/”MOON.” In these icons it is traditional for the sun to be dark and the moon red, in keeping with these biblical excerpts:
“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.”
“The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.”
Those removing him from the cross are: at left, an unnamed helper with no halo; at top right Svyatuiy Pravednuiy Iosif”— “Holy Righteous Joseph (of Arimathea) —
and below him, Svyatuiy Pravednuiy Nikodim”/”Holy Righteous Nicodemus.”
Now let’s identify the предстоящими/predstoyashchimi — “those standing by”:
At left in military garb and holding a lance is Svyatuiy Muchenik Loggin/”Holy Martyr Longinus. Remember that in Church Slavic a double Г is pronounced as “ng.” Beside him is the Meter Theou — “Mother of God,” i.e. Mary, mother of Jesus. And to her right is Svyatuiy Ioann” Bogosolov — “Holy John the Theologian” (Apostle and by tradition Evangelist).
Above them are two angels in the clouds:
They hold a book open to the text of the Trisagion (“Thrice-holy”):
СВЯТЫЙ БОЖИЙ СВЯТЫЙ КРЕРКИЙ СВЯТЫЙ БЕЗСМЕРТНЫЙ [ПОМИЛУЙ НАС]
SVYATUIY BOZHIY SVYATUIY KREPKIY SVYATUIY BEZSMERTNUIY [POMILUI NAS]“
“HOLY GOD, HOLY MIGHTY, HOLY IMMORTAL [HAVE MERCY ON US]”
There is another pair of angels on a cloud at right, also holding a book with the same “Trisagion” text.
Now you have likely noticed the vertical crack running through the icon. This is not unusual in old icons, which were frequently made by joining more than one board together. Often as the wood warps and shrinks, a crack will form in the join that extends into the paint surface. Old icons are frequently convex from warping, caused often when the wood for the panel was not cut from across the center of a tree, but from off-center.
The bystanders at right are:
Mariya/”Mary,” Mironositsa Marfa/”Myrrh-bearer Martha” and another Mironositsa Mariya/”Myrrh-bearer Mary.” There is some difference in the tradition as to which women were present, and the inscription on the woman at left is actually damaged, making it difficult to know which she was intended to be.
Here is the second icon type on the image — the Polozhenie — the “Placing in the Tomb/Grave.” We see Jesus lying on a cloth, and below him are two spice containers:
We see angels at left and right, holding the ceremonial fans (ripida) used in the celebration of the liturgy. They symbolize the presence of the Heavenly Powers (the angels) at the Eucharist.
The angel at the left holds a fan with an image identified by inscription as a Kheruvim/Cherubim (Russians use the plural for the singular in this case):
The angel at right holds a fan with a serafim/Seraphim — again using the plural for the singular:
Now traditionally, Seraphim should be red because they are associated with divine fire, and Cherubim are generally blue, but icon painters often got them mixed up, as here.
At left is “Holy Righteous Iosif/Joseph” (of Arimathea)”
Then we have these:
At left is Svyatuiy Ioann” Bogoslov/”John the Theologian.”
Meter Theou/Mother of God/Mary, mother of Jesus;
Svyataya Mironositsa Marfa/”Holy Myrrh-bearer Martha”
Svyataya Mironositsa Mariya K/ — apparently intended to be “Holy Myrrh-bearer Mary [mother of] Klopas”
At right is Svyatuiy Pravednuiy Nikodim”/”Holy Righteous Nicodemus”:
Now we get to the inset “flatiron” quadriptych. These four-part cast brass icons were very popular among the Old Believers.
I have discussed such an icon in great detail previously, and they do not vary much from example to example:
Here is the panel at left:
The top image is the Crucifixion (Raspyatie), with a tiny image of the “Not Made by Hands” image of Jesus just above the cross. Inscription: Raspyatie Gospoda Nashego Isusa Khrista
“Crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ”
The upper left image is the Annunciation (Blagovyeshchenie) to Mary. Inscription:
Blagovyeshchenie Presvyatuiya Bogoroditsui
“Annunciation to the most holy Mother of God
The upper right image is the Birth (Rozhestvo) of Jesus. Inscription: Rozhesto Gospoda Nashego Isusa Khrista
“Birth of our Savior Jesus Christ”
The lower left image is the Birth (Rozhestvo) of the Mother of God (Mary). Inscription: Rozhestvo Presvyatuiya Bogoroditsui
“Birth of the most holy Mother of God”
The lower right image is the Entry (Vvedenie) of the Mother of God into the Temple. Inscription: Vvdenie v Tserkov Presvyatuiya Bogoroditsui
“Entry into the Temple of the most holy Mother of God.”
Second panel from left:
At top is the New Testament Trinity, with the inscription: I Vozshedshago Na Nebesa I Sedyashcha Odesnuiu Otsa
“He Ascended into Heaven and Sits at the Right Hand of the Father.”
Left: The Meeting (Sretenie) of Jesus in the Temple. Inscription: Sretenie Gospoda Nashego Isusa Khrista
“Meeting of our Lord Jesus Christ [in the Temple]”
Right: The Theophany (Bogoyavlenie), that is, the Baptism of Jesus: Inscription: Bogoyavlenie Gospoda Nashego Isusa Khrista
“Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Lower Left: The Transfiguration (Preobrazhenie) of Jesus. Inscription: Preobrazhenie Gospoda Nashego Isusa Khrista
“Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Lower Right: The Entry (Vkhod) of Jesus into Jerusalem. Inscription: Vkhod v Ierusalim Gospoda Nashego Isusa Khrista
“Entry into Jerusalem of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Third panel from left:
Top: The Elevation (Vozdvizhenie) of the Cross. Inscription: Vozdvizhenie Chestnago I Zhivotvoryashchago Kresta Gospoda Nashego Isusa Khrista
“Elevation of the Honorable and Life-creating Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Left: The Descent (Sozhestvie) to Hades (Resurrection (Voskresenie) of Jesus). Inscription: Voskresenie Khristovo
“Resurrection of Christ”
Right: The Ascension (Voznesenie) of Jesus. Inscription: Voznesenie Gospodne
“Ascension of the Lord”
Lower Left: The Old Testament Trinity (Troitsa). Inscription: Svyataya Troitsa
“Holy Trinity.” In some examples this is replaced by the Descent (Sozhestvie) of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost), in which case the inscription is: Soshestvie [Sozhestvie] Svyatago Dukha
“Descent of the Holy Spirit”
Lower Right: The Dormition (Uspenie) of Mary. Inscription: Ouspenie Presvyatuiya Bogoroditsui
“Dormition of the most holy Mother of God”
And finally, we can complete our look at this icon with the last panel of the inset “flatiron”icon:
Top: The Praise (Pokhvala) of the Mother of God. Inscription: Obraz” Pokhvalui Presvyatuiya Bogoroditsui
“Image of the Praise of the Most Holy Mother of God”
Below that come four scenes of Poklonenie (Veneration) of Wonderworking icons of Mary:
Left: The “Tikhvin” icon with saints Aleksandr Svirskiy and Kirill Byelozerskiy, etc.
Right: The “Vladimir” icon with saints Maksim and Vasiliy (Maxim and Basil) Fools for Christ’s Sake, etc.
Lower left: The “Smolensk” icon with saints Antoniy and Feodosiy Pecherskiy, etc.
Lower right: The “Sign” icon with saints Antoniy Rimlyanin and Leontiy Rostovskiy, etc.