Temple Gallery

Established 1959

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

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VV034. Virgin of Kazan

19th century
31 x 26.5 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

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The Virgin and Child are depicted in half-length. The Virgin, with a look of tenderness and wearing a black and gold maphorion, softly gazes into the middle distance. Christ - who is in her lap but standing upright - gazes directly at the viewer, while his right hand is raised in a gesture of blessing. He is wearing a blue chiton with a pink himation.

Tradition relates the origin of this iconography (which is related to earlier Byzantine models of the Virgin and Child) to the story of its discovery, on July 8 1579, by Matrona, a young girl in the city of Kazan. The date corresponds to Ivan the Terrible’s capture of Kazan, the ancient capital of the Tatar Mongols. According to tradition the location of the image was revealed to her by the Mother of God. The original icon was kept in the Theotokos Monastery of Kazan built to commemorate the spot where it had been discovered. The icon, considered miraculous in the Orthodox tradition, was brought to Saint Petersburg by Peter the Great. It was carried by the army, led by Prince Dimitri Pozharski, which liberated Moscow from the Poles in 1612. The following year Mikhail Romanov was elected Tsar and the icon became the patroness of the Romanovs. His son Aleksei decreed a holiday to commemorate the appearance of the miraculous icon.

One of the earliest examples can be seen in The Art Museum, Yaroslavl (see fig. a). This icon was painted in the late 16th century. As we can see, our example closely follows the early prototypes for this iconography, yet the style - with its bright colours and rich ornamentation is characteristic of 19th century Russian icon-painting.

Fig. a. Virgin of Kazan, late 16th century, The Art Museum, Yaroslav, Russia

Detail Images