In a previous posting, I discussed icons of the Prepolovenie — “The Middle,” referring to Mid-Pentecost, commemorated on the fourth Wednesday after Easter/Pascha in Eastern Orthodoxy. You will find that posting here:
As you may recall, Prepolovenie icons mix two chronologically different events from two different Gospels: the twelve-year-old Jesus teaching in the Jerusalem Temple and being found there by his parents as reported in Luke, chapter 2, and the later account of the adult Jesus teaching in the Temple as given in John, chapter 7.
The titles of such icons vary somewhat, as discussed in that previous posting.
There are basically three forms of Prepolovenie icons:
1. The twelve-year-old Jesus (Christ Immanuel) seated in the temple and holding a book or scroll as he teaches the Scribes.
2. The twelve-year-old Jesus seated in the temple and holding a book or scroll as he teaches the Scribes, with his parents Mary and Joseph standing together and looking on — the so-called “Finding in the Temple” variant.
3. The adult Jesus teaching in the Temple, with his disciples on one side, and the listening scribes on the other. In this type, Jesus may be shown standing at a lectern instead of seated.
Today we will take a look at a very finely-painted later Russian example of the “Finding in the Temple” variant. We have already seen a similar icon in the previous posting on the Prepolovenie Type, but in this one we will look closer at details of painting.
Though the icon depicts Jesus in an interior, the old convention of the red cloth draped across supports in the background is not used in this rather late example. You may recall that the background settings of icons often consist of what are called “hills and palaces” — stylized hills and stylized buildings. In this we see only the “palaces” in the shades of rose and blue often found in icons of the Palekh painters.
If we look closely, we can see that the “palaces” are painted in darker and lighter shades of the same color:
The youthful Jesus sits before the doors in the center:
He holds the Gospels open to John 7:16-18:
Мое учение несть Мое, но Пославшаго Мя: аще кто хощет волю Его творити, разумеет о учении, кое от Бога есть, или Аз от Себе глаголю: глаголяй [от себе славы своея ищет: а Ищяй славы Пославшаго Его, Сей истинен есть, и несть неправды в Нем].
Moe uchenie nest’ Moe, no Poslavshago Mya: ashche kto khoshchet voliu Ego tvoriti, razumeet o uchenii, koe ot Boga est’, ili Az ot Cebe glagoliu: glagolyay [ot sebe slavui svoeya ishchet: a Ishchyay slavui Poslavshago Ego, Sey istinen est’, i nest’ nepravdui v Nem].
“My teaching is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaks [of himself seeks his own glory, but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is a man of truth; in Him there is no falsehood].”
At left we see Mary and Joseph, and below them an assembly of Scribes (книжниками/knizhnikami):
At right are more scribes. Note how detailed the painter has made their garments and books:
Finally, did you notice how the painter has extended the top of the central building up beyond the ark (kovcheg), across the luzga (the bevel surrounding the ark) and into the polya — the “field” — the outer border?
A student of icons once asked me whether images in the ark ever extend into the outer border. And the answer, as you can see, is yes — they sometimes do.