Temple Gallery

Established 1959

Deesis - exhibited at the Temple Gallery, specialists in Russian icons

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UU014. Deesis

19th century
Copper alloy and three colour enamel
7.5 x 19.5 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

£575Click here to convert price to USD or EUR

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On the centre panel Christ Pantocrator (Greek for 'all-powerful', from the Hebrew El Shaddai, a title for the Lord in the Old Testament) is shown in half length. His right hand is raised in an oratorical gesture, and he is thus shown 'teaching'. The open book in his left hand shows that he is teaching the Gospels.

On Jesus' right, the Virgin is shown facing the Saviour with her hand raised in a gesture that symbolises her intercessory prayer on behalf of the earthly community. On Jesus' left, St John the Baptist with wings (the Angel of the Desert) also faces Christ but looks downwards. In his left hand he holds the diskos, or paten (the object resembling a chalice). This is an Orthodox liturgical instrument: the diskos holds the Eucharistic bread (called agnets or amnos, meaning 'lamb') during the Divine Liturgy. In the middle of the diskos is the small naked figure of Christ, symbolising the Lamb of God of the Eucharist. This is the object of John's downward gaze.

The Forerunner is also holding a scroll with is inscribed with a connected text from the Gospel of John: 'As Videkh I Svidelstvo Va Onen: Ce Agnetsbijhiy vzemlai Gryekhiy' (‘I saw and witnessed concerning him, behold the lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world’ 1:29). The fact that Christ's body is depicted - rather than the bread - signifies the Orthodox belief that the bread is the resurrected body of Christ. Also, the 7th century Council of Trullo had decreed against the symbolism of the 'lamb' because it had been superseded by the Incarnation;[1] there was no longer, thus, any need for signs or symbols - the Lord had appeared in the flesh.

1. In other words, Christ becoming flesh makes symbols of him obsolete: the prophecy had been fulfilled and thus he should be shown in his human form. See Elizabeth Theokritoff [ed.], The Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 138

Detail Images