[ Click on the above image for a full screen view ]
The Virgin sits in the centre of the icon on a marble throne. Christ sits in her lap suckling her breast. This representation of the Virgin and child is known as Galakotrophousa (Gk. “the Milk-Giver”). To the left St Sebastian stands in his traditional pose of hands tied behind his back and arrows piercing his flesh, a reference to his martyrdom. On the right a less well-known figure, St Roch, points to a wound on his thigh. Both saints gaze to the centre and thus direct our vision toward the Virgin and child.
Our icon can be compared to other works that have been attributed to the early 16th century. A work in the Museo Nazionale in Ravenna (fig. a) shares the exact composition and type of the Virgin, but the saints are Saint Catherine and St Lucy. Yet not only does Mary’s face bear resemblances to our object, but the floral patterns on her mantle are almost identical.
Another comparable icon is in the Vicenza (fig. b). Here the type of the Virgin is slightly different, but again we find St Sebastian with the same countenance and pose. Even the blood that drips down the cloth around his waist is similarly depicted. [See footnote 1] We may further add that all these objects are of a similar size. Finally, an icon dated to 1520 also bears comparable features (fig. c).
Nano Chatzidakis has pointed out that these icons ‘probably shared a common model of an enthroned figure of the Virgin and Child’ and that they were most probably created in ‘the same workshop’.[See footnote 2] This evidence shows that it is highly likely that our icon was also created in the same workshop and in the same period.