Here is another multiple icon.
Long-time addicts — I mean readers — on this site should be able to identify both top images as well as that at lower right, because they have all been discussed here previously. And you do remember everything I have posted here in the last nine-plus years, don’t you?
Well, in case you do not, I will talk about them briefly.
At upper left we see this:
The title inscription at top is heavily abbreviated. It reads:
УСЕКНОВЕНИЕ ЧЕСТНЫЯ ГЛАВЫ СЛАВНАГО ПРОРОКА ИОАННА ПРЕДТЕЧИ
USEKNOVENIE CHESTNUIYA GLAVUI SLVANAGO PROROKA IOANNA PREDTECHI
“CUTTING OFF OF THE HONORABLE HEAD OF THE GLORIOUS PROPHET JOHN THE FORERUNNER”
It depicts the story from the New Testament in two scenes: the beheading of John at left, and the presentation of the head on a salver to Salome at right.
Now this icon type had a special meaning for Old Believers. They saw it not only as relating to John, but also as a symbol that with the great schism in the Russian Church in the mid-1600s, the head had been cut off the “true” Orthodox Church, which of course the Old Believers considered to be themselves, and not the State Orthodox Church, which they saw as an heretical usurper. It is said that some Old Believer iconographers even depicted the executioner of John with features quite like those of Peter the Great, who was notorious for the wanting all Russian men to cut their beards — though he eased up a bit eventually and let men keep their beards if they paid a beard tax. Now this may seem odd to us, but in the Russia of that time — and particularly among the Old Believers — beards were seen as essential to a grown male, and to shave off the beard was not only thought sinful but also lascivious, because it made men too sexually attractive, even to other men. So that tells us a great deal about human nature and the flexibility of gender roles.
One sometimes sees related but similarly gory icons of just the head of John on a salver. When I met a young icon painter in an Old Believer community many years go, that was the first of his works that he showed me. Here is an example of such an icon:
That icon type also had a special significance for Old Believers. Praying before it was a kind of folk remedy for headaches.
The second icon type on the multiple icon is this:
The title inscription reads:
“RESURRECTION OF CHRIST”
I have discussed Resurrection icons in great detail in this previous posting, and everything in the image above is explained in it:
Now we will jump to the image at lower right, and leave the “saints” quarter for later. Here the Marian icon is, with its title inscription below it:
УТОЛИ БОЛЕЗНИ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ
UTOLI BOLEZNI PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI
“‘SOOTH THE ILLS’ MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD”
It is discussed in this previous posting:
Gee, maybe if I keep this up, and can just eventually refer you all to previous postings instead of having to write anything more. A lot of information accumulates in nine years.
I will point out, however, the finger position on Mary’s right hand. By now you should recognize it as the Old Believer blessing position, and that identifies this as an Old Believer icon.
I should also mention the text inscription on the scroll held by the child Jesus:
Судъ праведенъ судите милость и щедроты творите кождо искреннему своему а вдовицы сира и пришельца и убога не насильствуйте, и злобы брата своего не вспоминайте.
It comes from Zachariah 7:9-10 (or 8-10 in Septuagint numeration). It begins with “Judge righteous judgment”:
Here is the saint’s quarter at lower left:
They are, from top left:
Kseniya Prepodobnaya/”Venerable Xenia”
Pravednaya Anna/”Righteous Anna”
Apostol Iakov/”Apostle Jacob/James”
Ioakim/”Joachim” — Anna’s husband
Here is the central Crucifixion:
Everything in it is explained in these previous postings:
You might, however, be initially puzzled by the letters below the main crossbeam:
The key to the mystery is that the inscription is heavily abbreviated, and it is read by jumping left to right, left to right, repeatedly. When that is done, the inscription is recognized as:
NIKA, meaning “He [Christ] Conquers” (the first two letters НИ at left with the last two letters КА at right, excluding the IC XC abbreviation for “Jesus Christ.”
Then come the left-right pair Р Г for Raspyatie Gospodne — “Crucifixion of the Lord.”
Then Ц С for Tsar Slavui — “King of Glory>”
Then С Б for Suin” Bozhiy — “Son of God.”
And finally the identifiers К Т — which usually come lower, beside the spear and sponge. K, abbreviating КОПИЕ — KOPIE, meaning “lance,” “spear.” And T, abbreviating ТРОСТЬ — TROST’, meaning the reed/rod, with the sponge at its top.
And here is Gospod’ Savaof/”Lord Sabaoth” — God the Father, at top center:
His fingers too are in the Old Believer blessing position. The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove is in the circle just below him.
Finally, here are the two border saints.
At left is Svyatuiy Prorok Moisey/”Holy Prophet Moses,” holding his tablets with the Ten Commandments:
At right is Svyataya Prepodobnaya Feodosiya/”Holy Venerable Theodosia.”
Now of course you noticed that the background of this icon — the svyet or “light” — is blue. A painted svyet made the icon cheaper for the purchaser, and it also saved time for the painter or painters.