[ Click on the above image for a full screen view ]
The Enthroned Mother of God is one of the most ancient iconographies, with examples pre-dating the first Iconoclasm crisis, such as the famous wax-encaustic icon in St Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai (Fig. a). There is a good argument made by scholars that the image is derived from the image of the ‘goddess Isis holding the infant Horus, suggesting that the Christian icononography may have been borrowed from this pagan source’(see Fig. b).[See footnote 1]
Our version develops this composition to include numerous saints who cannot all be identified with certainty, but we can identify the ‘types’ of saints, as Gordon Morrison has previously written:
The bottom row from left to right comprises a youthful soldier saint, a young female martyr, a crowned female martyr and…youthful soldier saint. The next tier consists of three bishops and a bearded military saint. The third level shows two prophets of the Old Law, while the uppermost tier consists of a mitred bishop, the archangels Michael and Gabriel and a bishop with a long dark beard. [See footnote 2]
These saints all stand or prostrate in supplication to the Son of God and the Mother of God.
The icon is painted in earthy colours with confident, energetic brushstrokes, while the faces have a child-like simplicity. Such details suggest that the icon was painted in Northern Russia. Another work from the same region and period, depicting the saints Flor and Lavr, highlights the similarities in style and technique (see fig. c)