Though painted in a very traditional manner, this icon shows again that there never was an Eastern Christian art without outside influences. Even the earliest Christian depictions were heavily reliant on images prevalent in the Greco-Roman art of the time.
Over the years the art of the Russian Church was influenced by images from the Catholic and later even Protestant West of Europe. This influence only increased with the great change in Russian Orthodox State Church painting that came after the break with the Old Believers in the middle of the 17th century. By the end of that century, State Church art went one way, while the Old Believers maintained the traditional stylized manner of painting.
This Western influence brought new depictions into Russian Orthodox iconography. One of these was the “Coronation of the Mother of God” — the Коронование Богородицы — Koronovanie Bogoroditsui, which came into Russian iconography via the Catholic-influenced art (including book engravings) of Ukraine.
Here is the inscription at the top:
СЫНЪ МАТЕР ВЕНЧАЕТЪ — ДУХ СВЯТЫЙ НЕВЕСТОУ ОСЕНАЕТЪ — ОТЕЦЪ ДЩЕРЬ БЛАГОСЛОВЛАЕТЪ
“THE SON CROWNS THE MOTHER” — “THE HOLY SPIRIT SANCTIFIES THE BRIDE” — “THE FATHER BLESSES THE DAUGHTER”
The “Coronation of the Virgin” image had been found in the art of the Catholic West since the 13th Century. It was often combined with the “Assumption.” In Russian Orthodox art, images of the death of Mary are depicted as the “Dormition” (Uspenie) — and for centuries, there was no “Koronovanie” type in Orthodox art — no “Coronation.” But in the 18th and 19th centuries, such icons became increasingly common, and were sometimes depicted — as in the West — in a “Dormition” icon with the “Coronation” added in clouds above it. Here is an example — the central image of an icon painted in 1694 by Kirill Ulanov (Кирилл Уланов) for the Pokrov Church in Moscow:
Gradually, however, icons of the “Coronation” without the “Dormition” scene became more common, like the first example on this page.
When the “Coronation” type first began to appear in Russian iconography, some were unhappy because it seemed to import a distinctively Roman Catholic teaching into Eastern Orthodoxy. But as you may recall, there is a type of Deisis icon commonly called “The Queen Stands at Your Right,” in which Mary is shown crowned and in royal robes. It applies the Old Testament phrase from the 44th Psalm to Mary as “Queen”:
“…the queen stood by on your right hand, clothed in garments wrought with gold, and arrayed in various colors...”
Of course that text originally had nothing to do with Mary at all, but it did provide a handy excuse for the adoption of the “Coronation” image into the icon repertoire by Russian Orthodox painters.