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This icon of the Virgin in half-length holding Christ follows the iconographic type known as the Madre della Consolazione [Mother of Consolation]. The Virgin is wearing a chiton, and a maphorion with a translucent peplos beneath. Her mantle is held together by a golden brooch on her chest. Christ is wearing a chiton and a red mantle. Christ holds a sealed scroll in his left hand and blesses with his right. They both gaze towards the viewer.
According to scholars the Madre della Consolazione iconography is probably of Italian origin - though an Italian prototype is not known- and was 'introduced into Cretan icon painting during the second half of the 15th century', most likely by the renowned Cretan artist Nicholas Tzafouris.An early version bearing Tzafouris' signature can be seen below (see fig. a).
Our version, which is slightly later, is close to an example in the British Museum attributed to the late 15th century (fig. b).
Here we find a similar manner of depicting flesh with the chiarscuro technique and the delicate garments. The folds and peplos - which is in places transparent, revealing the flesh beneath - along with the chiaroscuro shadows of the skin, highlights the influence of Western ideals of painting that developed during the Renaissance period. Cretan art of this era can be seen as hybrid of Byzantine and Italian art fused into a composite style, and could function in both Orthodox and Catholic churches, as Maria Vassilaki points out:
Icons of the Madre della Consolazione are characteristic products of Venetian Crete and of the conditions prevailing in it at the time. Icons could equally address an Orthodox or a Catholic clientele, as well as functioning in monasteries and churches of both rites not only in Crete but also outside.