Today’s icon is very interesting, and you will soon see why.
The icon is kept in a pleasant kiot (icon case), with the Holy Spirit as dove descending at the top.
As you can see, it is a multiple icon that includes five main types, as well as two sections of individual saints.
The most obvious type is the Blagoe Molchanie — “Blessed Silence” — icon at top center:
It depicts Jesus as the Eternal Logos — the “Angel of Great Counsel.” I have discussed this type in great detail in this previous posting:
Below is — the title reads — the Obraz Rozhestva Presvyatui vladuichitsui nasheya Bogoroditsui — the “Image of the Birth of Our Most Holy Mistress the Mother of God.”
We see Mary’s mother Anna lying at left, and the child Mary being brought to her by attendants; in the foreground we see the same attendants again, preparing to bathe the infant Mary. And in the background at right is Joachim, the father of Mary.
At upper left we see the Marian type Ot Byed Strazhdushchikh — often called in full Izbavlenie Ot Bed Strazhduschchikh — “Deliverance of the Suffering from Distress.”
I have discussed that type here:
And below is the Feodorovskaya type, discussed in the same posting as the previous type.
Now we get to the most interesting parts of the icon. At left you will see an image of St. Nikolai/Nicholas. Now notice how his head is turned to one side, and the rather severe look on his face.
I hope you remember that I discussed this type of Nicholas icon previously near the end of this posting:
Now the really interesting thing about Nicholas “The Turner” (Otvratnuiy) is that the type was found among the Old Believers, and it was considered an icon that warded off evil. Here it is given the standard inscription “Image of Holy Nicholas the Wonderworker.” Did you notice that Nicholas has the fingers of his blessing hand in the position used by the Old Believers?
And that leads us to the most interesting part of all in this icon. Here it is, another Marian type:
Do not make the mistake of confusing it with the “Soothe My Sorrows” Marian type. The title on this one is quite different. It is written here as OT NAVIDENIYA PECHALI — but ordinarily it would be spelled OT NAVEDENIYA PECHALI. It means “From Attacks of Sorrow.” This is a very rare icon type, and because it is specifically an Old Believer type, it is not generally found in the lists of Marian icons of the State Russian Orthodox Church. So, in addition to the traditional style of painting, there is no question that this is an Old Believer icon.
Now why “From Attacks of Sorrow?” Well, as we have seen, the “Nicholas the Turner” type was believed to turn away and repel evil. Similarly, the “From Attacks of Sorrow” image of Mary was believed to ward off sorrow and anguish caused, it is said, by sorcery or witchcraft — evil spells of enchantment.
As I said, it should not be confused with the “Sooth My Sorrows” type — though some consider it a subtype of that image. If we look, we can easily see obvious differences. Here is the “Sooth My Sorrow Type:
As you can see, in this type Mary’s right hand touches her cheek; But in the “From Attacks of Sorrow” type, it supports the Christ Child. Also in this type, the Child holds a scroll. But in the rare type, he blesses with both hands — giving a kind of “super blessing” of protection. Again in the rare type, the left hand of Mary is not over the Child’s legs, but is beneath the cloth on which he lies.
The “From Attacks of Sorrow” type appears to be based on a Canon found in 17th century handwritten manuscripts called “Canon to the Mother of God in Attacks of Sorrow” (Канон Пресвятей Богородице в наведении печали).
To finish up this multiple icon, we need only identify the saints in the two additional rectangles:
At left are the clerics Kiril/Cyril and Vasiliy/Basil the Great:
And at right are St. Vnifantiy/Boniface and the nun Domnika/Domnica (of Constantinople):
The icon as a whole is painted in the style called of Vetka/Vyetka, which applies to icons painted in Old Believer settlements of Vetka in Belarus and Starodub across the Russian border to the East.