Temple Gallery

Established 1959

Virgin Glykophilousa - exhibited at the Temple Gallery, specialists in Russian icons

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RR007. Mother of God Eleousa (Glykophilousa)

Cretan School
Circa 1500
Panel: 42.3 x 31.8 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

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This ancient iconography expresses the loving, reciprocal union between the Mother of God and the Christ-child. glykophilousa, which translates from the Greek as ‘sweet kisses’. The Virgin tenderly embraces Christ and holds him close to her face so their cheeks gently touch. The image is thus one of human and familial warmth. Yet the scroll (which can be read as a symbol of the Word, or Logos, of God)[See footnote 1] in Christ’s hands signifies the divine nature of this union, as another author has written: ‘This theological icon proclaims the mystery of the Incarnation. It points to the living, human relationship between mother and son. The infant’s hand is the hand of the Logos, cherishing the finest fruit of his creative love.’ If the Hodegetria iconography shows the Virgin directing us toward the Son, here we engage with a reciprocal and ‘cyclic interplay of divine and human love’.[See footnote 2]

Our version is a good example of a late 15th or early 16th century version from the Cretan School. A comparable object from the same period and School can be found in the Ecclesiastical Museum in Milos (see Fig. a).

Fig. a. Glykophilousa, Late 15th century, Crete, Ecclesiastical Museum


1. See Hans Belting, Likeness & Presence: A History of the Image Before the Era of Art, (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1997), p.290
2. The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity, (Oxford, Blackwell, 2001), p.220

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