Today’s icon is another of those Marian images often found in Russian icons of the 19th century.  It is called Взыскание Погибших — Vzuiskanie Pogibshikh — the “Seeker of the Lost.”

Its origin story says that in the middle of the 18th century, there was a pious peasant in Kaluga Province, named Feodot Alekseevich Obukhov,  He donated utensils and icons to his poor parish church, which was in the village of Bor.  One day he was out in the rural areas between villages in his sleigh when he was caught in a freezing blizzard.  He found himself on the edge of an impassable ravine, with his horses exhausted.  He prayed to Mary, telling her that if she would rescue him, he would have a copy of her icon made and placed in the village church.  Then he did what people in such circumstances are always told not to do — he lay down in his sleigh and fell asleep.

(Courtesy of

(Courtesy of

In a neighboring village, another peasant was by his window when he heard a voice saying “Take.”  He went outside and found Obukhov there, asleep and half-frozen in his sleigh.  He brought him inside and warmed him up.  So Obukhov was saved, and to keep his vow, he had a copy made of the icon that was in the Volkhov church in Orlov Province, said to have been painted in 1707.

There is more than one “Seeker of the Lost” icon type, variable in form, and they are usually divided according to the place where each was celebrated:  there is the Belevskaya, the Borskaya, the Volzhskaya, and the Zvonarskaya, and there is of course some confusion among them.  Nonetheless, the image most commonly found under that title in icons of the 19th century is much like the example in the photo on this page.

On looking at it, with the rounded window in the left background and a tree in the distance, one cannot help feeling it was likely based on some Western European prototype.

The border saints are at left the Guardian Angel and Ekaterina (Catherine); and at right Login Sotnik — that is, the Centurion Longinus, and a female saint whose inscription is too faint to read in the photo.


Today’s Russian icon is an easy one, and you should have no trouble reading the title inscription of the fellow depicted.  The only problem is a small one — the abbreviation Пр (Pr.) before the name.  It can abbreviate Prepodobnuiy (roughly “Venerable”) or it can abbreviate Pravednuiy (“Righteous”), but here it abbreviates Prorok (“Prophet”), because this is an icon of King David, and in Eastern Orthodoxy David is listed among the prophets.  So the inscription in full would read Svyatuiy Prorok David —  “[the] Holy Prophet David.”

(Courtesy of

(Courtesy of

The scroll texts on icons of the prophets can be a real bother, because one never knows what text a painter will choose.  And if a text is hastily written, or if the spelling is too far off, it can be quite a trial at times to decipher.  Fortunately the text on today’s icon presents no major difficulties because we have seen it before.  If you want to see where, go to this posting:

The text on the scroll of today’s icon is:

Изъ чрéва прéжде ден­ни́цы роди́хъ тя́.  Кля́т­ся Госпóдь и не раскáет­ся: [ты́ иерéй во вѣ́къ по чи́ну Мелхиседéкову.]  It is taken from Psalm 109:3-4 in the Slavic Bible, which is Psalm 110:3-4 in the KJV.  It reads slightly different than the KJV in the Slavic and Septuagint versions:

I have begotten you from the womb before the morning.  The Lord swore, and will not repent: [You are a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedek.“]

This is interpreted in Eastern Orthodoxy as referring to the birth in eternity of Jesus as the Logos — the Word — from God the Father, not to the earthly birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

The image of the Prophet David is found in a number of other icon types, among them the traditional Resurrection icon and icons of Mary called “The Praise of the Most Holy Mother of God” — and of course in the Prophets’ tier of the iconostasis in Russian Churches.

This is a good time for me to again take a look at readership of this site.  Obviously there are a lot of readers of the site now, surprising as it may seem (as the old saying goes, recognizing your problem is the first step toward overcoming it).  So if you are one of those who read here regularly, please send me a note and tell me who you are and why you are here — even if you have written to me before.  I already know there is much variety in the readership, including art restorers, museum staffers, and even — much to my surprise — a number of icon painters and clergy, even though this is not a “religious” site and does not take a “religious” approach to icons, seeing them rather as cultural and historical art objects.

So take a moment and send me a few words and tell me who you are and why you like to read the information I provide on the rather esoteric subject of icons.  I am always curious why people are here.   I appreciate your presence, whoever you are and whatever your reason.  And of course I am always open to suggestions for subject matter.  Just click on the comment button at the bottom of this or any message, and your note will get to me privately (comments on this site are all seen only by me, unless otherwise requested).

And by the way, quite a number of people from various countries read here, so don’t hesitate to write if your use of English is unusual or very basic.  I will probably understand anyway.




I do not talk much about icon covers here.  In spite of their often considerable artistry, they nonetheless hide parts of or most of the painting, and I am much more interested in the painting than in the ornateness or costliness of the metal cover.

Nonetheless, one should know something about icon covers.  They can be helpful in dating an icon, but should not be used alone for that purpose.  An old cover can be put on a new icon.  A new cover can be put on an old icon.  And an old icon may have a cover added years or even decades later than its date of painting.  So a cover may provide a clue to date, but should not be used as the final word in most cases.

Like the changes of style in icon painting, covers too have changed in style.  Today I want to give a general idea of how they changed (and when), so that readers may have a rough idea of how to date an icon cover as considered separately from the painting it often partially hides.

We will begin in the 1600s — the 17th century — which was a time of great transition in Russia.  If you have been reading here long, you will already know that in the middle of the 1600s there was a great split within the Russian Orthodox Church, with the Old Believers separating from the State Church, and suffering much persecution as a result.  It was also the time when — in the mid to later part of the 1600s — Western European art began to influence the painting of icons in Russia, though its influence at first was primarily in the art of the State Church rather than that of the Old Believers, who kept to the old stylized manner of painting while the State Church gradually incorporated more and more realism.

So, we will begin with the kind of icon cover most prominent in the 17th century in Russia — the basma (басма).  The basma was the early form of icon ornamentation.  It consisted of embossed sheets or strips of metal tacked onto the surface of the icon, not as one piece, but as a series of pieces forming the cover.  A basma might form a kind of frame around the outer edges of the icon, as in this 17th-century example:

Or it may extend over much of the surface of the icon, being cut to outline the portion of the painting revealed, as in this icon from the 1670s:

When you see an old icon with lots of little holes in the painted surface — holes the size of small nails — chances are it once was covered with a basma.

We can think of the high period for use of the basma as extending from the 14th to the latter part of the 17th century.  Near the end of the 17th century, however, the basma was gradually replaced by the one-part metal cover, traditionally called a riza, meaning “robe.”  A term favored in the Soviet period for such a cover is oklad.

When we get to the time of the one-piece riza, its ornamentation is already influenced by the fashions of Western Europe.  So on a riza of this period — primarily the 18th century —  we can expect rich Baroque ornamentation.  Here is an example from 1778:

(Courtesy of

(Courtesy of

Even though the Baroque style began to be replaced in the late 18th century by Neoclassical influence, the predilection for the Baroque in icon covers lasted even into the middle of the 19th century  However, near the end of the late 18th century, we begin to see the appearance of classical elements.  We can think of this as paralleling the movement in France from the Baroque-rococo manner in the reign of Louis XV to the antique Greco-roman influences that begin to appear in the Louis XVI period and gain increasing strength through the Directoire period and into the openly classical antique-revival Empire period.

Here is a cover from 1810.  Note the “starburst” halos that will be prominent in icon covers even a bit beyond the middle of the 1800s:

(Courtesy of

(Courtesy of

And here is an even more classical-influenced cover from 1826, restrained in its ornament:

(Courtesy of

(Courtesy of

The two styles, Baroque and Neoclassic, existed together for some time.  Here, for example, is an 1845 cover that is still heavily Baroque in ornamentation (and again, note the “sunburst” halo):

(Courtesy of

(Courtesy of

In about the 1860s, we begin to see another transition.  The large Baroque elements gradually give way to smaller, more concentrated ornamentation, as in this example from 1867:

(Courtesy of

(Courtesy of

In the 1880s we often see the same kind of smaller, concentrated ornament, but also triangular corner pieces become more common, as in this example from 1882:

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It is also in the 1880s that intertwining geometric patterns become increasingly common in the outer borders.  Here is an example from 1884:

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So in the last 20 years or so of the 19th century, we see an increased preference for “early Russian” geometric designs and ornamentation on icon covers, again a kind of parallel to the rise of the Arts and Crafts movement in Europe and America and its look back to medieval times. In keeping with this, there is also a growing preference for colorful cloisonné ornamentation in icon covers.  Here is an example from 1892:

(Courtesy of

(Courtesy of

Note again the triangular corner pieces.

Here is another example from the period between about the turn of the 20th century and the Revolution:

(Courtesy of

So the last period of Russian icon covers before the Revolution continues the “Arts & Crafts” influence and the preference for cloisonné. In case you don’t remember, cloisonné is the filling of little spaces formed by tiny wires or strips of metal with melted glass, while champlevé is the filling of depressions in the metal surface with melted glass.   Here is a rather extreme example that mixes “primitive” Arts & Crafts design with champlevé ornamentation:

(Courtesy of

(Courtesy of

And finally, in the last years of the reign of Tsar Nicholas II, there was also a style for simple elegance in icon covers, as in this example:

(Courtesy of

(Courtesy of

Keep in mind that there was no abrupt border marking one period off from another.  The transition was more gradual, with the earlier style continuing for some time while gradually being replaced with the newer style.

And, of course, not all covers were equal in quality.  The metals used could vary from gold to silver to gilt silver to silvered brass to unsilvered brass to tin.  And of course there were also covers made of embroidered cloth, of beadwork, and of woven metal threads.  Wealthier people could afford covers of silver, and in such cases one looks for hallmarks on the silver.  If a cover looks like silver but has no hallmarks, chances are it is just silvered brass.





In the previous posting, I discussed icon types that are “fixed groups” of saints — the same saints shown together from icon to icon, though their arrangement may vary.

Today we will look at another such “fixed group” icon — the “Five Holy Martyrs of Sebaste.”  In Greek iconography they are Οι άγιοι πέντε μάρτυρες από τη Σεβάστεια,  Hoi Hagioi Pente Martyres apo te Sebasteia — The Holy Five Martyrs from [the] Sebaste.”

Sebaste is a town in Armenia, which you may recall from a previous posting about the icon type the “Forty Martyrs of Sebaste.”

(Courtesy of

(Courtesy of

The example shown is a pleasant Russian icon from the last period before the Revolution.  The saints depicted are, from left: Евстратий, (Evstratiy) Авксентий (Avksentiy) Евгений (Evgeniy), Мардарий (Mardariy) and Орест (Orest).  In Greek they are Εὐστράτιος (Eustratios), Αὐξέντιος (Auxentios), Εὐγένιος (Eugenios), Μαρδάριος (Mardarios) and ᾿Ορέστης (Orestes).

This is a good place to point out that in Church Slavic, saints’ names ending in -ий, when used of saints found in the old Greek saint lists, commonly replace the original Greek name ending -ιος.  And when the Greek original has the letter combination  Αὐ- or Εὐ- at the beginning, it becomes in Slavic Ав- or Ев-.  That is helpful when trying to find equivalent names in one language or the other.

These five saints of Sebaste were said to have been martyred by the governor Lysias for confessing Christianity near the beginning of the 4th century c.e.  The later account of their individual sufferings from the Synaxarion of Nikodemos the Hagiorite died 1809) goes into graphic detail about the tortures they underwent, but that is a characteristic of much hagiography, and we need not dwell on it here (Nikodemos, by the way, was also the editor of the best-known work of Eastern Orthodox spirituality, the Philokalia).

What I really want to talk about today is the style of this particular example.   If we look at it carefully, we can easily date it, because the style is so distinctive of a particular time and movement in Russian icon painting.

We should look at:

The careful delineation of the figures and their garments;
The elaborate detailing on garments;
The background “light” that varies in shade and/or color from bottom to top.
The stylization of facial features, etc.
The careful and abundant use of gold highlighting on garments.

All these are characteristic of the school of painting in the latter part of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries exemplified by the work of such painters as Mikhail Ivanovich Dikarev ( Михаил Иванович Дикарев ), who worked first in the icon-painting village of Мстёра — Mstyora — then later moved to Moscow at the end of the 1870s and worked in the Chirikov Brothers’ workshop.

The Chirikov brothers were also from Mstyora (also transliterated Mstera), one of the three famous icon-painting villages in the Vladimir region along with Palekh and Kholui.  It was a strong area for the Old Belief, and about half its residents in the 18th century were Old Believers.  We can easily see the resemblance in style between the icon above and this example by Dikarev depicting the Metropolitan Mikhail of Kiev/Kiyev:

(State Hermitage Museum)

(State Hermitage Museum)

We can see a similar love of intricate garment detail in this 1890 icon by Osip Semyonovich Chirikov, depicting the Metropolitans Pyotr, Aleksiy, Iona and Filipp of Moscow, with the Great Prince Vladimir — who converted Kievan Rus to Eastern Orthodoxy Christianity by edict in 988 c.e. — shown in the center:

(State Historical Museum, Moscow)

(State Historical Museum, Moscow)

Pyotr, Aleksiy, Iona and Filipp are another frequent “fixed group” type, as in the following example, though of course such saints may also be found individually in icons.

(Courtesy of

(Courtesy of

The Chirikovs were an interesting family.  Osip Chirikov (Осип Семёнович Чириков), who died in 1903, had two sons — Grigoriy and Mikhail — who also went into the icon business.
As an odd little sidelight, the workshop of Grigoriy Osipovich Chirikov (1882-1936) in Moscow — where the famous “Vladimir” image of Mary was restored in 1918 — also became a center for the painting of fakes of old Russian icons.  Some call him the chief forger of pre-Revolutionary icons, which in itself says much about the quality of his work. He gained a reputation as the most eminent icon expert and restorer of his day, and a source for collectors of pre-Nikonian icons and for the Imperial museum collection under Tsar Alexander II.  His presumed expertise even got him the job of chief icon restorer under the early Soviet regime.  So skill in the restoration of old icons led naturally, in his case,  to “restoration” of early icons on which only a few bits of paint of the original still adhered to the panel once later overpaintings were removed, and even to the forging of entire old icons whose iconography was acceptable to rich Old Believers and the avid collectors who were willing to pay much for “authentic” old icons in the years prior to the Revolution.  Obviously their concept of “restoration” was not that generally held today.

It was only decades later, when careful chemical analysis of icon materials became possible, that such forgeries were made obvious.  However skilled in painting the forgers of the late 19th-early 20th century were, however familiar with earlier iconographic styles, they nonetheless failed to reproduce exactly the materials used by the painters of the old originals, and there had been notable change in the nature of pigments used in Russian icon painting over the centuries, particularly from the 18th century onward.  There is also a difference in materials used for the ground of many early icons — the gypsum alabaster levkas (or “gesso” to use the Italian term) of the early icons being later commonly replaced by a gesso made of chalk.

Grigory Chirikov, in spite of his importance even into the Soviet era, came to a sad end.  He was accused of counter-revolutionary activities and later sent to a labor camp; it is generally believed that he was executed by the Soviets.  His story reminds me of the Western art “expert” Bernard Berenson, who became known and made a great deal of money from his presumed expertise in the art of the Italian Renaissance — again before the application of technology became generally applied to the analysis of early paintings.


The 4th century (the 300s c.e.) was an important time for the development of Christianity.  That is when it was legalized in the Roman Empire and also when it was given the favor and support of the Emperor Constantine.  It was also significant in the development and standardization of Christian dogma.  And it was the beginning of the time of reversal, when Christians went from being a persecuted minority to being themselves the persecutors of non-Christians and those who did not toe the favored line doctrinally within Christianity.  It was the time of the first great church council — the Council of Nicaea, out of which came a fundamental dogmatic statement of later mainstream Christianity — the Nicene Creed.  It was a time when the notion of “heresy” — of scorning other ways of Christian belief — became firmly established in the Imperially-favored church.  It was the beginning of the solidification of “official” Christian dogma, in contrast to the earlier wide variations in belief and practice.

As I hope you know by now, some icon types are fixed groupings of certain saints.  Today’s image — a Russian icon — is one of them.  It depicts three historically-important figures in the development of Eastern Orthodoxy.  This example is a little unusual in that the three are commonly depicted on the same panel, but here they are shown as a three-panel set.  Nonetheless, the type remains the same.

If you have been reading this site for some time, you should recognize immediately that this is an Old Believer rather than a State Church icon.  The two clues are the stylization of the figures, and of course the position of the fingers of the blessing hand, with the “two-fingered” blessing that is the mark of Old Believers quite clear in the central panel.

(Courtesy of

(Courtesy of

The figures shown are, from left:  Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and  John Chrysostom.  Each is dressed in the robes of a bishop, with the standard omophorion (the long stole) about his neck; and each holds the book of the Gospels, and a little cloth beneath it to show veneration.  The arrangement of the three varies from example to example.

The Greeks call them Οἱ Τρεῖς Ἱεράρχαι — Hoi Treis Hierarkhai; in Russia they are generally called either Три святителя — Tri Svyatityelya — “The Three Bishops,” or Три учителя — Tri Uchityelya — “The Three Teachers.”

Basil is called Василий Великий in Slavic — Vasiliy Velikiy — “Vasiliy the Great.”  Gregory is  Григорий Богослов — Grigoriy Bogoslov — “Gregory the Theologian.”  And John is Иоанн Златоуст — Ioann Zlatoust — “John the Golden-mouthed.”  In Greek they are Βασίλειος ὁ Μέγας — Vasilios ho Megas, Γρηγόριος ὁ Θεολόγος — Gregorios ho Theologos —  and Ιωάννης ὁ Χρυσόστομος — Ioannes ho Khrysostomos, all with the same meanings as in Slavic.

Just who were these guys?

Basil the Great lived in the 4th century (300s c.e.).  He began his career in law, then became a monk and the abbot of a monastery, and eventually founded more and wrote an enduring rule of life for the monks.  In 370 he was made a bishop.  He is often given credit for the victory of the “Nicene” view of the Trinity over that of Arius.  His name is given to the form of Eucharistic liturgy called the “Liturgy of St. Basil.”  Basil died in 379.

Gregory the Theologian also lived in the 4th century.  He is sometimes called Gregory Nazianzen, after a Cappadocian city.  He studied in Athens for six years, and was a school friend of Basil the Great.  He later spent several years with Basil in a monastery.  Like Basil, Gregory was active in the struggle against the views of the Arians.  He was for a time Patriarch of Constantinople, but there was controversy over his appointment, and he eventually withdrew.  Gregory died in 390.

John Chrysostom was born in the 4th century, but lived into the early 5th.  He became a hermit in 375 c.e., and a priest in 386.  He became known as an excellent speaker –thus his name — but he was also virulently anti-Semitic.  In 397 he was made archbishop of Constantinople.  An intolerant fellow, John supported the destruction of non-Christian temples and shrines, and his mouth got him into so much trouble that he was banished into exile, and died in 407.  His name is attached to the common liturgy celebrated in Eastern Orthodoxy, the “Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.”




In an earlier posting, we looked at the Tainaya Vechera type — the “Mystic Supper,” which is the form in which the “Last Supper” is commonly presented in Eastern Orthodox iconography.  I also briefly mentioned a related type:  the “Communion of the Apostles.  In Greek it is generally called  Η ΘΕΙΑ ΚΟΙΝΩΝΙΑ (He Theia Koinonia) “Holy Communion,” and in Slavic  Причащения Апостолов — Prichashchenie Apostolov. the “Communion of the Apostles.  It depicts Christ standing at an altar, giving communion to the Apostles, who approach from left and right.  Christ is generally shown twice, at left in the so-called metadosis (imparting) of the bread, and at right in the so-called metalepsis (partaking) of the wine. This represents Christ giving the communion in and to the Church on earth — the Church as one related communion.

Here is a rather basic pattern of the type.  instead of the room of the last supper, it is a church; and instead of the table with the Apostles around it, there is an altar (shown twice in this example), often with a canopy above it.  In the finished icon, Jesus would be holding bread at left, and a chalice (or sometimes a jug) at right:

When inscriptions are present in this type (which may be found in churches above the “Tsar Doors” to the altar or on the wall of the eastern apse) they are generally these texts from Matthew 28 in Church Slavic (in Slavic regions) or Greek (in Greek-speaking areas):

Slavic, at left:
Прiими́те, яди́те: сié éсть тѣ́ло моé
Priimite, yadite: cie est’ tyelo moe

Greek, at left:
Λάβετε φάγετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου.
Labete phagete, touto estin to soma mou.

“Take, eat; this is my body.”

Slavic, at right:
Пíйте от­ нея́ вси́:  сiя́ бо éсть крóвь моя́, нóваго завѣ́та, я́же за мнóгiя изливáема во оставлéнiе грѣхóвъ.
Piite ot neya vxi: siya bo est’ krov’ moya, novago zavyeta, yazhe za mnogiya izlevaema vo ostavlenie gryekhov.

Greek, at right:
Πίετε ἐξ αὐτοῦ πάντες, τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης τὸ περὶ πολλῶν ἐκχυννόμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν·
Piete ex autou pantes, touto gar estin to haima mou tes diathekes to peri pollon ekkhunnomenon eis aphesin hamartion.

“Drink of it all of you; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

In some examples, one may find an excerpt from the Liturgy of St. Basil:
(Slavic here)

Нас же всех, от единаго Хлеба и Чаши причащающихся, соедини друг ко другу во единаго Духа Святаго причастие.

“Unite us all, who receive of one bread and chalice, one with another in the communion of one Holy Spirit.”

In the basic pattern shown on this page, the number of apostles included is indistinct.  But commonly there are eleven, six at left and five at right.  You may recall that in the New Testament, there are twelve until the betrayal of Jesus by Judas.  In this icon type, Judas is generally omitted, because this is a liturgical icon showing a scene “in eternity” as the saying goes,  and Judas is not considered part of that eternal celebration.  Nonetheless, some painters included Judas, who may be shown turning away, or even in some examples with a black halo to distinguish him from the “accepted” apostles.


There is a group of related icons that are associated with the liturgical texts of “Holy Week,” the annual celebration of the Passion and death of Jesus.

The first is shows Jesus after his scourging, wearing a scarlet cloak over his shoulders, hands tied at the wrists, the crown of thorns on his head, and a long reed in one hand.  This image has long been known in the West by the Latin name Ecce Homo — “Behold the man,” the words of Pilate when presenting Jesus to the crowd.

Greek examples of the type often bear those same words, only in Greek as  Ίδε ο άνθρωπος — Ide ho Anthropos.  We see that Greek inscription (in upper case) at the left side of this late 19th century print from Mount Athos.  The words are run together as:
ΙΔΕΟΑΗΘΡΩΠΟC.  At right, to cater to another group of customers, is the same inscription in Church Slavic:  СЕ ЧЕЛОВЕКЪ — Se Chelovek — “Behold the Man.”

It is important to know, however, that this type is generally known in Greek Orthodoxy by a different title:  Ο Νυμφίος — Ho Nymphios — meaning “The Bridegroom,” Jesus being considered the bridegroom of the Church.  This “Bridegroom” title comes from a troparion in the Bridegroom Matins service of “Holy Week.”

«Ιδού, ο Νυμφίος έρχεται εν τω μέσω της νυκτός, και μακάριος ο δούλος, ον ευρήσει /γρηγορούντα. Ανάξιος δε πάλιν ον ευρήσει ραθυμούντα. Βλέπε ουν, ψυχή μου, μη τω ύπνω κατενεχθείς, ίνα μη τω θανάτω παραδοθείς και της βασιλείας έξω κλεισθείς. Αλλά ανάνηψον κράζουσα· Άγιος, Άγιος, Άγιος ει ο Θεός ημών, διά της Θεοτόκου ελέησον ημάς».

Behold, the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night, and happy is the servant whom he finds awake.  Unworthy, however, the one whom he finds indolent.  See therefore, my soul, that sleep does not overcome you, so that you be not handed over to death and be shut out of the Kingdom.  But alert, cry:  Holy Holy, Holy are you our God, through the Mother of God have mercy on us.”

That troparion, in turn, is derived from the Parable of the Virgins in Matthew 25, which begins:

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go out to meet him.

Greek examples one commonly sees of the Nymphios/Bridegroom type are generally 19th century or later.

Another Passion-related type is the image found often in older icons, called Η Ακρα Ταπεινωσις — He Akra Tapeinosis — “[the] Extreme Humility.”

This type shows the body of Jesus upright, with the spear and sponge of the Passion.   Russians call it Царь Славы — Tsar Slavui — “[the] King of Glory.”  Here is a Russian proris’ — a painter’s pattern — of that image, which would be reversed on the actual icon:

You may recall that “Tsar Slavui” is also part of the standard inscription found on Russian icons of the Crucifixion.  This title is also often found on Greek icons of the Crucifixion, sometimes on the signboard at the top of the cross as ΟΒΣΛΤΔΞ, abbreviating  Ό Βασιλεύς της Δόξης — Ho Basileus tes Doxes — “The King of Glory,”  and sometimes written in full on or near the main crossbeam.

Russian iconography generally prefers adding Mary to this type; she holds the body of Jesus, upright from the waist in a stylized stone sarcophagus.  With Mary added, the preferred title in Slavic becomes  Neruiday Mene Mati — “Weep Not for Me Mother”:

(Courtesy of

Russians generally classify it as a Marian image, which accounts for the title inscription on the above icon:  Neruiday Mene Mati Presvyatuiya Bogoroditsui — “The ‘Weep Not for Me’ Most Holy Mother of God.”

The “Weep Not” title is taken from the liturgy for Holy Saturday (celebrated as the day after the crucifixion):

«Не рыдай Мене, Мати, зряще во гробе, Его же во чреве без семени зачала еси Сына: возстану бо и прославлюся и вознесу со славою, непрестанно яко Бог, верою и любовию Тя величающия».

Weep not for me, Mother, seeing in the tomb the son, conceived without seed in the womb,  For I shall arise and be glorified, as God I shall exalt with glory unceasing those who with faith and love magnify you.

This “Weep Not for Me” type is essentially a variation on the Greek Η ΑΠΟΚΑΘΗΛΟΣΙΣ — He Apokathelosis —  “The Removal [from the Cross],” in which Mary grasps the body of Jesus as it is taken down.   in fact some Greek examples in this general form — have He Apokathelosis as the title inscription.   The Western European (Roman Catholic) equivalent of the “Weep Not for Me, Mother” is the Pietà — not quite the same, but related.  

There is another “Holy Week” type one should be aware of, because it is found not only in painted icons, but also in needlework on fabric as a liturgical object used in the Good Friday and Holy Saturday services.  Such an elaborately embroidered cloth is called an Epitaphios, or in Russia a Плащаница — Plashchanitsa.

The title of this type is Ο ΕΠΙΤΑΦΙΟΣ ΘΡΗΝΟΣ — Ho Epitaphios Threnos — “The Lament [threnos] Over [epi-] the Tomb [-taphios/taphos].”  In English it is often called simply the “Lamentation.” Here is an example by Theophanes the Cretan, found at the Stavronikita Monastery on Mt. Athos.  The Ο Επιτάφιος Θρήνος title is just above the main crossbeam:

It is interesting to compare it with the earlier Italian fresco (1305) by Giotto, of the same event:


In spite of its much earlier date, the Giotto image seems more full of genuine emotion than the Stavronikita image, less “hieratic” –and a precursor to the Renaissance.