JOHN’S MAKESHIFT BOAT

Today we will look at the iconography of one of the saints of the island of Crete:

(Byantine and Christian Museum, Athens)

In the center we see the large image of the saint himself.  If it once had his title, it is worn away.  But we see it abbreviated in another similar icon of the same fellow:

We see:

Γ
ὉἉ

abbreviating  Ὁ ἉΓΙΟC/Ho Hagios — “The Holy”;

And we see

It has a mark of abbreviation above it.  It abbreviates ΙѠΑΝΝΗC/Ioannes — “John”:

And finally, divided into two parts at the sides of his head, we find:

Ὁ ΕΡΗ               ΜΙΤΗC   — Ho Eremites — “The Hermit.

If we put it all together, we get:

Ὁ ἉΓΙΟC ΙѠΑΝΝΗC Ὁ ΕΡΗΜΙΤΗC
HO HAGIOS IOANNES HO EREMITES

“[The] HOLY JOHN THE HERMIT.”

Because he was a monk, John is often titled Όσιος Ιωάννης ο Ερημίτης/Hosios Ioannes ho Eremites.  You will recall that Hosios is the Greek equivalent of the Russian Prepodobnuiy; it signifies a male monastic.

You may have recognized that the Greek word ΕΡΗΜΙΤΗC/Eremites is already found in English as “eremite,” and in fact our English word “hermit” comes ultimately from the Greek eremites, which in turn is derived from Greek ἔρημος/eremos — meaning a deserted, wild place.  It is the word used in the New Testament for the “desert” where John the Forerunner/Baptist preached.  So an eremite or hermit was originally one who went out to live in wild, uninhabited places — like the Judean desert, or the Nitrian Desert in Egypt.

The icon of John the Hermit tells the hagiographic tale of his life in condensed form.  We will look at elements of this tale taken from two similar icons.  Remember that these lives of the saints are not literal history, but rather tales to inspire and entertain believers — so they are often a mixture of history and fanciful fiction — and sometimes entirely fiction.

The tale tells us that in the year 1600 (others say it may have been even some two centuries earlier) 36 monastics came with John from Egypt to lead ascetic lives on the island of Cyprus, in the Mediterranean Sea.  There they made such a local impression that they were joined by 39 more — this time Cypriots.  By this time, things were so lively around them that they wanted to find a quieter place to live a monastic life.  First they tried going to Antalya in Asia Minor (now in Turkey), but again they were pestered by lots of religious “groupies.”  Nonetheless, another 24 monastics joined them, so now they were, all together, 99 monks.  They decided that number was enough, and would not accept more, because they considered Jesus to the the 100th member of their community — a nice round number.

To find a quieter place for their ascetic lifestyle, they got on a ship and headed for the island of Crete, but the weather was bad and the sea rough, so they only managed to make it to the island of Gavdos, which is about 26 miles south of Crete.   There they stayed only for 24 days, and then set off again, sailing to Crete.

When they got there, they discovered that John was missing.  According to the tale, he had fallen asleep on Gavdos, and so missed the boat when all the others got on board to sail for Crete.

When they found John was gone, they went to the beach and waited there for him.  And John was supposedly able to miraculously put his mantle on the sea, and using his staff as a mast, he stepped onto the cloth and sailed across the waters to join the other monks on Crete.

That is what we see in this part of the icon.  At the top is the ship.  Below it, John stands at right on the island of Gavdos.  Another monk stands on the shore of Crete, opposite him.  And then below that we see John sailing across the sea from Gavdos to Crete on his cloth mantle:

Below  that, we find the old monks all gathered together, and above them is a Greek inscription identifying them as ῾Η Σύναξις τῶν Γερόντων/He Synaxis ton Geronton — “The Assembly of the Elders.”

The remainder of scenes on the left side of the icon deal with the death of John.

The monks, having arrived on Crete, lived in caves.  John eventually went off to find a place by himself.


So he left the 98 other “Fathers,” and went to Akrotiri on Crete.  There he managed to live in a cave he found for many years.

It is said that John prayed so much on his knees that at last he had trouble standing, and would crawl about on all fours.  It happened that one day when he was out gathering greens for food, a hunter passing by with his bow and arrows mistook John crawling in the bushes for a beast, and shot him with an arrow.

He begged and received John’s forgiveness.

John is said to have breathed his last in his cave, and in the icon we see his koimesis/”dormition” there — his death, with an angel on each side of his body.

Here is the second of the two icons of John the Hermit, which as you can see, is much the same as the first.

There is a particularly peculiar element in John’s hagiography.  He is supposed to have made an agreement with the other 98 monks that when one of them died, they would all die.  And it is said that when the hunter who accidentally killed John went to inform the other monks of John’s death, he found that they had already died at the time when John died.

 

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THE HAND OF ANGELUS

An interesting icon believed to be by Angelos Akotantos is coming up for auction on January 26th, 2019, in North Carolina (U.S.A.):

(Photo courtesy of Brunk auctions: http://www.brunkauctions.com)

You may recall Angelos Akotantos (Άγγελος Ακοτάντος) from an earlier posting on this site:
https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/mind-your-manners-the-cretan-school-of-icon-painting/

He was a noted iconographer of the Cretan School of icon painting, and was active about 1425-1450.

Venetian merchants carried on a thriving trade with Crete at that time, and ordered large numbers of icons, whether painted in the maniera greca (“Greek” manner) or the maniera latina (“Latin” or Italian manner).

This icon — depicting the Anastasis, the “Resurrection” of Jesus as his descent to Hades — shows Jesus standing in a mandorla (almond-shaped, full-length halo) of light.  He reaches out to grasp the hand of Adam, the first man.  Behind Adam stands his wife Eve, as well as other figures.

(Photo: Brunk Auctions)

To the left of Jesus we see John the Forerunner (the Baptist), as well as Kings David and Solomon and others.

(Photo: Brunk Auctions)

Two angels hover above, their hands covered with cloths as a sign of reverence.

In the open cavern at the base are two open sarcophagi, and in the center are the broken gates of Hades.

Usually, icons by Angelos Akotantos are signed in Greek ΧΕΙΡ ΑΓΓΕΛΟΥ/Kheir Angelou — “Hand of Angelos,” but this one was obviously intended for a Western — most likely Venetian — customer.  It is signed in Latin rather than Greek:

(Photo: Brunk Auctions)

The signature is:  Angelus pinxit — “Angelus painted [it]” — Angelus being the Latin form of the Greek Angelos.

You may recall that though some earlier icons were signed, it was the Cretan School that really popularized the signing of icons.

The icon is offered through Brunk Auctions in Asheville.

 

MARY’S BELT

Here is a 16th century fresco image from the Dionysiou Monastery on Mount Athos:

As you see, it has no inscription.  If you are clever, you might recognize the traditional depictions of the apostles Peter and Paul in the foreground, but beyond that this image may mystify you.  Who is the little fellow at upper left, and what is he holding?  Well, it is another one of those relic stories so common in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

The little fellow in the sky at upper left is the Apostle Thomas.  According to one variant of tradition, when the time came for Mary, mother of Jesus, to die, she requested to see the Twelve Apostles.  All of them arrived — brought on clouds in the sky — except Thomas, who was busy preaching in far-off India.  Thomas was only able to set off three days after her “dormition,” her “falling asleep,” the euphemistic term for her death.

Now it happened that while Thomas was on his way to Mary’s death — riding his “cloud taxi” — Mary had ascended to heaven.  She appeared to Thomas and dropped her belt down to him.

When Thomas arrived at the tomb, he showed the belt the ascended Mary had given him to the other apostles.  And that is what we see in this Athos fresco — Thomas, having arrived in his cloud at left, holds out the belt of Mary, showing it to the other apostles.  Mary’s closed tomb is in the foreground.  And of course the tale continues that when the apostles opened the tomb, it was empty — verifying the tale of Thomas that Mary had ascended to heaven.

In other variants of the tale, Thomas was already at the tomb of Mary when she dropped her belt down to him from heaven.  And yet another variant merely says the belt was given to two widows in Jerusalem before Mary’s “dormition.”

Now interestingly, the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos claims to have the belt Mary gave to Thomas.  But one need not go that far.  The Italian town of Prato — just a bit north of Florence — also has what is claimed to be the belt Mary gave to Thomas, kept in the Cathedral.  That is, unless you prefer to see as authentic the segment of the belt said to be kept by the Syriac Orthodox Church at the Church of the Holy Belt in Homs, Syria.  Other places have also claimed to have the relic.  But as we know, relics were a big business in byzantine and medieval times, able to draw many pilgrims and their money to whatever place claimed to own them.  And the enterprising market easily provided what the customer wanted, in the days before carbon dating and DNA testing.

In any case, the belt was supposedly taken to Constantinople in the 5th century, and this Russian icon depicts its placing in the Church of the Khalkoprateia there.  The vyaz inscription at the top says:

ПОЛОЖЕНИЕ ЧЕСТНАГО ПОЯСЯ ПРЕЧИСТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ В ХАЛКОПРAТIИ
POLOZENIE CHESTNAGO POYASYA PRECHISTUIYA BOGORODITSUI V KHALKOPRATIY

“Placing of the Honorable Belt of the Most Pure Mother of God in the Khalkoprateia.”

Later it was supposedly taken to Mount Athos, where one part of it was said to be kept in a cross and the other part in a reliquary (kibotos).

Now as one can tell, these old traditions are confused and contradictory, and certainly should not be taken as literal history, but rather seen as a part of all the fables and tales of commonly false relics that were a standard part of Christian belief and devotion — whether in the “Orthodox” East or Catholic West — in earlier times.

Here is a 16th century painting by the Venetian artist Palma il Vecchio (c. 1480-1528) — Palma the Elder –, showing a “Western” version of the legend of the giving of the belt of Mary (or if you prefer a fancier term, the “Holy Cincture”).  It used to be called the “Holy Girdle,” but the pictures that raised in the mind were too peculiar for that term to be used in modern times.

 

 

 

THE NATIVITY — WITH VARIATIONS

A particularly interesting fresco of the Nativity is found in the little Greek church called the Omorfi/Omorphe Ekklesia (Ομορφη Εκκλησία) — literally “Beautiful Church” —  on the island of Aegina (Αίγινα), off the coast of Piraeus.

It has the usual Byzantine elements common to the type, but with some interesting variations.  The most obvious is that Mary — instead of lying on her pallet — is seated and nursing the child Jesus.  We see the traditional ox and ass feeding from the manger beside her, but a very peculiar feature of this rendering is the cave in which she sits.  The edges of the cave are ornamented with open eyes:

Iconologists customarily explain the cave eyes this way:  First there is the common belief in the “Evil Eye,” and both newborn children and new mothers were thought to be particularly vulnerable to its influences.  To counteract the Evil Eye, the superstitious used the principle of “like cures like,” so they used an eye — whether painted or in amulet form — to counteract the harmful influence of any potential Evil Eye.

The second — and related — potential source often mentioned for the eyes is the metaphor of man as a cave of robbers and demons, found, for example, in a Christmas homily by Anthimos of Athens:

The Lord was born in a poor and humble cave, to transform man who is the cave and dwelling of the robber and the murderous demon, the fearful evil Devil, into the temple and house of the Holy Spirit.

That man is the residence of demons is a notion found as early as the Epistle of Barnabas:

Understand you. Before we believed in God, the
abode of our heart was corrupt and weak, a temple truly built by
hands; for it was full of idolatry and was a house of demons, because
we did whatever was contrary to God.”

In any case, the supposition is that the cave — being a potential residence of demons, whether in actuality or as a symbol of mankind — could have its potential evil averted by the use of painted eyes as talismans.  So what we see in this depiction is the eyes painted on the cave to avert the Evil Eye from the mother and newborn child — at least that is a common interpretation.  It is difficult to say if that was what the painter actually intended.

It is also possible that someone got a bit too literal in reading the Protoevangelion of James in Greek.  Here is a relevant portion:

protoevangeliotouiakobouex.jpg

Beginning at numeral 2, it reads:

“And they stood in the place of the cave, and behold, a bright cloud overshadowed the cave.  And the midwife said, my soul has been magnified this day, for my eyes have seen remarkable things, for the salvation of Israel was born. And immediately the cloud disappeared out of the cave, and a great light appeared in the cave, which the eyes could not bear.”

If we look at the title of the icon at the top, we find it written as

ΤΟΥ ΧΡΙCΤΟΥ Ἡ
TOU KHRISTOU HE

ΓΕΝΝΗCΙC
GENNESIS

If we join the two segments, we get:

ΤΟΥ ΧΡΙCΤΟΥ Ἡ ΓΕΝΝΗCΙC
TOU KHRISTOU HE ΓΕΝΝΗCΙC
“Of   Christ the Birth.”

In normal English, “The Birth of Christ.”

At lower left we see the usual washing of the child Jesus, identified by his IC XC abbreviation:

We again see common elements of this icon type at lower left.  Joseph sits with a “How did I get myself into this?” look on his face.  His title inscription — written with a phonetic and thus more “modern” Greek pronunciation — is ΗΟCΙΦ, pronounced Iosif.

Similarly, the title above the shepherds beside Joseph is also a phonetic spelling:  Η ΠΙΜΕΝΕC instead of the standard  ὉΙ ΠΟΙΜΕΗΕC / hoi poimenes.

To the right of the bearded shepherd we see a white dog, and above it what appears to be a wolf, with his mouth opened toward the small sheep in front of him.  In this we are perhaps to see the threat of the Devil, who seeks whoever he may devour — but then again, perhaps it is just a wolf after a sheep, with the white dog barking a warning.

At left we find the Magi with another phonetic inscription:

Η ΜΑΓΙ
ΤΑ ΔΟΡΑ

He Magi
Ta Dora

Loosely, “The Gifts of the Magi.”

At top, we see the Star of Bethlehem, and three angels, one of whom announces the birth to the flute-playing shepherd at right:

So there you have it — a little variation on the usual Eastern Orthodox scene of the Nativity.

A TRICKY ONE AND AN EASY ONE

Here is an 18th century Greek icon.  It depicts a fellow dressed as a bishop, but to know who he is, we must read the title inscription at upper right.

(Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens)

Here it is:

It is rather faint, but it reads:

Ὁ ἉΓΙΟς ΙΑΚω
ΒΟς Ὁ ΑΔΕΛΦΟ
ΘΕΟς

If we put it all together, it is:

Ὁ ἉΓΙΟC ΙΑΚΟΒΟC Ὁ ΑΔΕΛΦΟΘΕΟC
HO HAGIOS IAKOBOS HO ADELPHOTHEOS
“[The] Holy Jacob/James the Brother [of] God”

In Greek he is called Iakobos — Jacob — but in English that is traditionally rendered as “James” when referring to this person.  Adelphotheos is a composite word made from adelphos (“brother”) and Theos (“God”).  That title comes from what Paul wrote in Galatians 1:18-19:

Ἔπειτα μετὰ ἔτη τρία ἀνῆλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ἱστορῆσαι Κηφᾶν, καὶ ἐπέμεινα πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡμέρας δεκαπέντε· ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εἶδον, εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου.

Epeita meta ete tria anelthon eis Hierosolyma historesai Kephan, kai epemeina pros auton hemeras dekapente. heteron de ton apostolon ouk eidon, ei me Iakobon ton adelphon tou kyriou.

“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Cephas [Peter], and stayed with him fifteen days.  But of the other apostles I saw none, except James the brother of the Lord.”

Given that in Eastern Orthodoxy Jesus is considered to be God, the title was adapted for James as “Brother of God.”

And here is his scroll text:

It is a rather tricky one, because it consists of two joined excerpts from the Liturgy of St. James.  Here is the first part:

ΙΔΕ Ὁ ΑΜΝΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ Ὁ ὙΙΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΤΡΟΣ Ὁ ΑΙΡΩΝ ΤΗΝ ἉΜΑΡΤΙΟΝ ΤΟΥ ΚΟΣΜΟΥ ΣΦΑΓΙΑΣΘΕΙΣ ὙΠΕΡ ΤΗΣ ΤΟΥ ΚΟΣΜΟΥ ΖΩΗΣ ΚΑΙ ΣΩΤΗΡΙΑΣ
Ide ho amnos tou Theou ho huios tou Patros ho airon ten hamartion tou kosmou sphagiastheis huper tes tou kosmou zoes kai soterias

“Behold the Lamb of God, the son of the Father, who takes away the sins  of the world, sacrificed for the life and salvation of the world.”

The second part is abbreviated in phrasing, but I have added in brackets what is missing:

Ὁ ΜΕΛΙΖΟΜΕΝΟC [ΚΑΙ ΜΗ ΜΕΡΙΖΟΜΕΝΟC ΚΑΙ ΤΟΙC ΠΙCΤΟΙC ΜΕΤΑΔΙΔΟΜΕΝΟC] ΚΑΙ ΜΗ ΔΑΠΑΝΩΜΕΝΟC ΕΙC ΑΦΕCΙΝ ἉΜΑΡΤΙΟΝ [ΚΑΙ ΖΩΗΝ ΤΗΝ ΑΙΩΝΙΟΝ ΝΥΝ  ΚΑΙ ΑΕΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΙC ΤΟΥC ΑΙΩΝΑC]
Ho melizomenos [kai me merizomenos kai tois pistois metadidomenos] kai me dapanomenos eis aphesin hamartion [kai zoen ten aionion nun kai aei kai eis tous aionas]

Who is parted [and not divided, and distributed to the faithful] and not expended; for the remission of sins [, and the life everlasting; now and always, and into the ages.]”

That refers to the Eucharistic bread, which is, in Eastern Orthodox belief, the “Lamb of God” — Jesus.

Here is another icon of James, painted in a much simpler manner, and from the end of the 18th century”

(Velimezis Collection)

You should be able to easily read the title inscription.  But let’s look at the text on the book he holds:

This one — if you have been a careful reader of this site — should be rather easy too, if you note the common abbreviation.  Remember how I always say that icon inscriptions are very repetitive, so learning a few enables one to read many icons?   Well, we just saw this inscription (at least most of it) in the preceding posting on Antipas of Pergamum, and we also saw it earlier on an icon of St. Nicholas of Myra.  In this example it reads:

Left page:

ΕΙΠΕΝ
ὉΚΣ ΕΓ
ω ΕΙΜΙ
ἩΘΥΡα

Right page:

ΔΙ ΕΜΟΥ
ΕΑΝ ΤΙΣ
ΕΙΣΕΛ
ΘΗ σω

It begins with the words

ΕΙΠΕΝ
ὉΚC

ΕΙΠΕΝ/EIPEN means “said.”
Ὁ /HO is of course the masculine definite article “the.”

ΚC/KS, you will note, has a horizontal line above it, signifying that it is an abbreviation.  It abbreviates ΚΥΡΙΟC/KYRIOS, meaning “Lord.”  That gives us

ΕΙΠΕΝ Ὁ ΚΥΡΙΟΣ/EIPEN HO KYRIOS

So literally it reads “Said the Lord,” but in normal English order we translate that as:
The Lord said.”

Then it continues with the beginning of that now familiar (I hope!) text:

Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα· δι’ ἐμοῦ ἐάν τις εἰσέλθῃ, σω– [θήσεται, καὶ εἰσελεύσεται καὶ ἐξελεύσεται, καὶ νομὴν εὑρήσει].

Ego eimi he thura: di emou ean tis eiselthe, so-[thesetai, kai eiseleusetai kai exeleusetai, kai nomen euresei.]

And of course it is from John 10: 9:

I am the door: by me if anyone enters in, he shall be sa- [ved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture].”

WHEN THE SAINTS COME MARCHING IN

At the request of a reader, here is a brief discussion of “All Saints” icons:

In the Greek Orthodox calendar, the first Sunday after Pentecost/Whitsunday is Ἡ Κυριακή των Ἁγίων Πάντων/He Kyriake ton Hagion Panton — “The Sunday of All Saints.”  In Russian Orthodoxy, it is Неделя всех святых/Nedelya vsekh svyatuikh, with the same meaning.

If you are a long-time reader here, you will perhaps recall that we have seen a generally simple form of the icon of All Saints as part of the “Week” icon (https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2015/09/26/what-day-is-it-icons-of-the-week/), in which it represents Saturday in the seven days of the week.

“All Saints” (Ὁι άγιοι Πάντες/Hoi Hagioi Pantes) icons do, however, exist on their own.

Greek iconography tends to prefer the “circle” form, which looks like this:

In the center we see Jesus enthroned.  He holds the opened Gospels.  If we look at an example of the same image in a more recent icon of the same type, we can see the text more easily:

It reads:

Δεῦτε, οἱ εὐλογημένοι τοῦ πατρός μου, κληρονομήσατε τὴν ἡτοιμα[σμένην ὑμῖν βασιλείαν ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου].

Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34)

At upper left is the Prophet Daniel, and at upper right King Solomon.  Some examples have King David (called the Prophet David) at left instead of Daniel, in which case he holds a scroll with a text taken from Psalm 32 (33 in KJV numbering):

Αγαλλιάσθε δίκαιοι, εν Κυρίω· τοις ευθέσι πρέπει αίνεσις.

Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous; praise becomes the upright,
which is also a part of the liturgy for All Saints Sunday.

Solomon holds a scroll with a text from Wisdom of Solomon 5:15, one of the readings for the Sunday of All Saints:

Δίκαιοι δὲ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ζῶσι, καὶ ἐν Κυρίῳ ὁ μισθὸς αὐτῶν, καὶ ἡ φροντὶς αὐτῶν παρὰ ῾Υψίστῳ.

But the righteous live for evermore; their reward also is with the Lord, and the care of them is with the most High.

At the base of the icon, we see the Forefather Abraham seated in Paradise at left, holding a soul in his bosom.  Some examples include a similar image of the Forefather Jacob at right, also holding souls, as in this icon:

You will recall these fellows from the previous posting on the icon of the Forefathers in Paradise ( https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/three-old-men-on-a-park-bench-the-patriarchs-in-paradise/).  To the right of Abraham is the image of the “Repentant Thief,” holding his cross.

In the circle around Jesus are the various ranks of saints.  At his feet is the altar table we find in icons of the Hetoimasia — the “Preparation of the Throne,” the throne being represented as an altar.  To its left stands Adam, and at right Eve.

At the top of the circle we see angels with the cross and symbols of the Passion, and above them two more angels holding open the doors of Heaven.

Russian icons of “All Saints” are commonly in the “square” form rather than the Greek “circle,” as we see in this example from 1616:

At top is Jesus in the “Deisis” form, with Mary at left and John the Forerunner (Baptist) at right, and many angels on both sides  Below him and between two angels is the “Hetoimasia” — the altar table “throne” prepared for judgment.  The rest of the icon consists of the saints, separated into their ranks or choirs (Slavic лики/liki), just as we saw in the posting on “Week” icons mentioned above.

“All Saints” icons commemorate all saints from the beginning of time to Judgment Day, and the image of the Patriarchs in Paradise is included as representation of the rewards of sainthood.

ANOTHER “GOD THE FATHER” INSCRIPTION

A reader kindly shared some photos of the dome fresco in the katholikon (main church) of the Pantokrator Monastery at Mount Athos.  The much earlier frescos in the katholikon were painted over in 1854 by Matheos Ioannou of Naoussa, so what we see is comparatively recent.

(Photo courtesy of Clemens Staphorst)

Our purpose in looking at this fresco today is to examine the Greek inscription.  Long-time readers here already know that icons of God the Father painted as an old man are extremely common throughout Eastern Orthodox iconography, with a history going back many centuries.

Here is a closer look at the inscription:

(Photo courtesy of Clemens Staphorst)
It reads:

Ὁ ΑΝΑΡΧΟC ΠΑΤΗΡ — HO ANARKHOS PATER — “THE BEGINNINGLESS FATHER.”  So the image represents God the Father.

The Pedalion (The Rudder, a treatise on  Orthodox Church canons by Nicholas the Hagiorite, 1749-1809) says:

ὁ άναρχος Πατήρ πρέπει να ζωγραφίζεται καθώς εφάνη εις τον προφήτην Δανιήλ ως παλαιός ημερών.

The Beginningless Father should be painted as he appeared to the Prophet Daniel, as the ‘Ancient of Days.‘”

You will recall from a previous posting here (https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/an-ancient-of-days-trinity-icon-and-how-to-read-it/) that there is an ongoing controversy in Eastern Orthodox circles as to whether the “Ancient of Days” type should be used to represent Jesus, or whether it should be God the Father.  But in the study of icons we pay no attention to modern doctrinaire quibbles over what this or that person thinks painters should have done.  Instead we simply go with historical reality — with what a painter actually did in a given case.  And in this case the image is quite clearly identified as the “Beginningless Father” — God the Father.  You will recall that in Russian iconography, God the Father is commonly titled “Lord Sabaoth.”

Note the triangle halo with the faint HO ON  (“The One Who Is” ) inscription in it — an inscription generally found on icons of Jesus.  The triangle with its three points is of course a “Trinity” symbol, and more often found in late Orthodox iconography.