And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. 6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, 7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. 8 The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? 9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. 10 Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? 11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. 12 Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not. John 9. 1-12 (KJV)
These two icons (Nos. 25 and 26) are an expression of what in 1871 was a still vibrant traditional Orthodox culture in the Balkans. Both events are recounted in the Gospel of Saint John, the ‘spiritual’ gospel as it is described by Augustine and others.1
The miracle of the healing of the blind man is sometimes present in fresco cycles but is rarely depicted in icons. The painter omits the detail of Christ anointing the man’s eyes with clay but otherwise follows the narrative. His style is typically influenced by western naturalism as we see in the soft draperies and the treatment of the landscape and yet the effect is iconic and non-worldly.