A sure way to impress someone with your knowledge of icons is to throw in a few Russian terms. Of course first you have to find someone likely to be impressed by your knowledge, and that is very difficult, because the vast majority of humans are incredibly bored by icons, and will suddenly say, while you are talking, “Oh, I forgot; I have to see someone about something. Goodbye.” And they will rush away as fast as they can.

Nonetheless, Iconoholics persist in learning more and more about icons, and I, being an enabler, will give you yet another term to add to your vocabulary for frightening off prospective boyfriends or girlfriends.

You already (I hope) know what a skladen is. A skladen (складень) is a folding icon, usually cast metal, like this Deisis example, with Jesus in the center, Mary at left, and John the Forerunner (the Baptist) at right:

(Courtesy of

A skladen can be a diptych (two panels), a triptych (three panels,), a quadriptych (four panels), etc.

Now here is a new term to add to your vocabulary. Look at this icon:

(Courtesy of

As you can see, it is a triptych — a folding icon with three panels. But if you want to be very specific, and more descriptive than the usual English term, you would call this a skladen-kuzov (складень-кузов ).

A skladen-kuzov differs from a usual skladen in that it has an icon inset — like the one above, protected by a little frame. So it functions as a kind of kiot — an icon case– but in folding form. Kuzov means here a kind of frame.

Now as you see, the main icon in this skladen-kuzov is an example of the Strastnaya type — the “Mother of God of the Passion,” and in the western Roman Catholic form it is generally called “Our Lady of Perpetual Help.”

Just above that is an image of the “New Testament Trinity” in Deisis form. What does that mean? Well, it is the usual image of Jesus and Lord Sabaoth (God the Father) seated on their throne in heaven, with the Holy Spirit as a dove with them. It is made a Deisis form by the addition of Mary at left and John the Baptist at right, approaching the throne with requests on behalf of humanity.

At the tops of the left and right wings we see the Archangel Gabriel at left and Mary at right, together forming the “Annunciation” type.

Below that in the left panel are a “Descent into Hades” (Resurrection) type, and a “Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ” type.

In the right wing below Mary is a “Transfiguration” type, and below that the “Dormition.”

So now, next time you are in a conversation with a newly-met prospect of the gender you prefer, you can ask if they would like to see your skladen-kuzov — and then watch them suddenly remember a previous appointment.


A “multiple icon” is an icon containing more than one icon type on the same panel.

Here is an interesting multiple icon that includes two types discussed previously, as well as a group of saints.  Now if you are a long-time reader here….  Well, how many times have I said that?  If you are a long-time reader here, and a careful reader and student of icons, you will be able to identify both of the icon types at the top.  In fact if you have read and remembered the information in all the past postings here, you will know more about icons now than practically anyone you are likely to meet — including museum professionals.  But it still won’t get you a date on Friday night.

(Belgian Private Collection)

Here is the type at upper left:

Yes, it is the “All-Seeing Eye of God” type. You will find a detailed discussion of it here in the archives:

And here is the type at upper right:

You may recall that we looked at that icon type previously, and that it actually had its origin in the Roman Catholic statue known as Our Lady of Loreto Many people are surprised to find that a number of Russian so-called “wonderworking” icons derive ultimately from Roman Catholic prototypes. You will find the discussion here:

The example above is particularly interesting because though it is a classic “Increase of Reason” type, the painter used this title for it:


And you will find how the “Growth of Reason” icon type sometimes blends into another and related type here:

Now on to the saints at the base. Notice the abbreviations in the inscriptions, which I shall expand here.

This is the saint at left:

We can tell from her garments that she is a nun. Her title is:

СВЯТАЯ ПРЕПОДОБНАЯ НАСТАСИЯ / SVYATAYA PROPODOBNAYA NASTASIYA — “Holy Venerable Anastasia.” Nastasiya is just another form of Anastasia. She holds an Old Believer prayer rope.

Beside her stands this fellow:

HIs tItle inscription tell us he is:

СВЯТЫЙ АПОСТОЛ АНДРЕЙ ПЕРВОЗВАННЫЙ / SVYATUIY APOSTOL ANDREY PERVOZVANNUIY — “Holy Apostle Andrew the First-called. Why “First-called?” Because in the New Testament, Andrew was the first disciple called by Jesus. He is considered very important both in Ukraine and in Russia, because according to tradition he visited the site of Kyiv/Kiev, and foretold its future greatness. He went on to the site of Novgorod in the north, and also tradition relates that he founded the church in Byzantium, which became Constantinople. The Patriarch of Constantinople was regarded as his successor. So Andrew is often seen as the link that joined the Greek and Russian churches.

The fellow to Andrey’s right is also a very famous saint. He is ПРЕПОДОБНЫЙ СИМЕОН СТОЛПНИК / PREPODOBNUIY SIMEON STOLPNIK — “Venerable Simeon the Pillar-guy — or as he is more commonly known, Simeon Stylites.

He was the man who became famous for living atop a pillar.

If we look at his right hand, we can see that the fingers are in the blessing position used by the Old Believers:

The saint at far right is СВЯТАЯ МУЧЕНИЦА ЕКАТЕРИНА / SVAYATAYA MUCHENITSA EKATERINA — “Holy Martyr Catherine.” This is the noted Saint Catherine of Alexandria.

She too has her hand in the Old Believer blessing position, so the painter wanted no doubt left that this was a “pure” Old Believer icon.

Perhaps you noticed the “ribbon” ornamentation all around the luzga — the slant that separates the outer “field” of the icon from the central “ark” with the painted images.

Such ribbon ornamentation is typical of many icons painted in the village of Palekh.