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The composition follows that of the great icon painted in Constantinople in the late eleventh century (fig. a) (for more information, see below). The Virgin's glance varies: sometimes she gazes towards the onlooker, and sometimes it is down, towards her son, or, as we find in the current example, a deep inward gaze into the middle distance. The composition, in the embrace of the two figures, characterises tenderness (Russian: 'Oumileinye').
The current version belongs to a tradition that began in early 15th century Moscow and continued until the late 16th century. These icons show a great sensitivity to expression and a subtle manner of presenting the subject. For instance, our example shows the influence of Rublyov's Virgin of Vladimir (Fig. b), especially in the detail of Mary who does not look at the viewer, nor directly at Christ, but is 'profoundly absorbed in inner prayer'. Yet there is also a greater sense of compassion in the Virgin's face, which is mostly missing in the Byzantine archetypes.
The icon has been painted with a subtle lighting that imparts a mysterious quality. In this sense it can be compared to other Moscow School icons. For example, another version of the same subject previously at the Temple Gallery (fig. c), and one from the well-known Kasteel De Wijenburgh collection (fig. d).
While the face of the Virgin is comparable to a 16th century Moscow icon of the Virgin from a Deesis (fig. e).