NORTHERN UKRAINIAN “HOUSE” ICONS

Look into your memory if you are a long-time reader here, or into the archives ( https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/flames-a-footprint-and-a-lucky-coachman-the-pochaev-icon/) if you are not, and you will easily recognize this icon type:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

The distinguishing features are the child Jesus sitting, legs together, on the left hand of Mary — and above all, the white cloth held in and hanging from Mary’s left hand. Those elements together tell you this is the Pochaev/Pochayiv/Pochaevskaya icon type (names in English/Ukrainian/Russian).

The “appearance” of the Pochaev icon is said to have taken place near Pochayiv in Ternopil Oblast in western Ukraine, which is slightly northwest of the city of Lviv/Lvov. Here is the Pochayiv/Pochaev Lavra built at the site:

Because of its appearance there and its fame, the Pochaev icon of Mary is a kind of national icon type in Ukraine, and is very popular, including within the the category of folk icons known as “house” icons, such as the following example:

(Courtesy of Maryhill Museum)

The faded inscriptions are at top the usual МР ΘΥ (Meter Theou/Mother of God) abbreviation standard in icons of Mary, and below at left and right “Mother of God of Pochaev,” and the IC XC (Iesous Khristos) abbreviation for “Jesus Christ.”

In spite of its simplified, folkish style, you can easily see the characteristics of the type: The child Christ seated — legs together — on the right hand of Mary, and the white cloth held in and hanging down from her left hand. Some examples, like this one, place crowns on the head of mother and child.

Notice the two floral blobs near the head of Mary. Such ornamentation is common in Ukrainian folk icons of the northern area, and in some regions is replaced by stylized roses or round “apples.” The ornamentation in this example is found in the Dniepr Basin north of Kyiv/Kiev (the red dot in the yellow region on the map).

This house icon of St. Nicholas from the Dniepr region exhibits the same thin, flat painting, the same dark background, and the same strings of white dot “pearls” used as ornamentation in the Pochaev example above:

Somewhat similar house icons are painted in the region where the Desna river flows down from Chernihiv/Chernigov into the Dniepr — such as this Chernigov example of the “Lord Almighty” type:

Such folk icons, painted simply and quickly and sold inexpensively, were generally found in peasant homes. Now you can easily see that they are considerably different in style from the more elaborate Old Believer icons found in the Ukraine, so keep in mind that there is considerable variation in Ukrainian iconography, which varies from the simple examples discussed here to the more skillfully painted Old Believer icons to very sophisticated icons that closely resemble Roman Catholic religious art.