Temple Gallery

Established 1959

Dormition of the Mother of God - exhibited at the Temple Gallery, specialists in Russian icons

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WW021. Dormition of the Virgin

19th century
31.2 x 26.6 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

£1,450 [Sold]Click here to convert price to USD or EUR

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In the centre of the icon the Virgin is shown lying on a bier. She is surrounded by the twelve apostles and other saints who mourn her departing. St Paul can be seen on the right-hand side with his hands covered by his pink garment, while St Peter is opposite swinging a censer. Directly above her Christ is shown within a mandorla - symbol of the celestial dimensions. In his arms he holds the soul of the Virgin, which is symbolised by a small baby in swaddling clothes (eidolon). Angels and other saints surround Christ and gaze upon the scene, while a seraphim hovers directly above him (cf. Isaiah 6:2). In Christ's halo is a cruciform as well as the initials 'Ὁ ὢ Ν', which translates from the Greek as 'He who is' and derives from God's response to Moses at Mount Sinai (Exod. 3:14).[1] At the bottom of the scene the non-believer Jephonias, who tried to upend the sacred bier, has his hands cut off by the Archangel Michael. The building on the left represents the Virgin's house, where the scene takes place, while the building on the right the Jerusalem Temple - the destination of the procession.[2]

The narrative of the Dormition isn't mentioned in the Bible but scholars believe it can be traced to the late 4th century.[3]

The highly decorative style of this version - the richly embellished depictions of textiles (especially drapery), the graphic renditions of architecture, the round, soft-looking faces, and so on - continue a style that was prominent in the 18th century, but which has its roots in 17th century icon-painting from the Armoury School of Moscow. This style is also associated with major icon-painting centres such as Palekh and Mstera. An icon of the Intercession of the Virgin from Kaluga (southwest of Moscow) and created in the 1770's (fig. a), shares many of these stylistic traits with our icon, especially the depictions of textiles (curtains, clothing, etc…), the architecture, and the faces. Our version continues this style but was painted in the 19th century.

Fig. a. Intercession of the Virgin (Protecting Veil) with Selected Saints, 1770's, Kaluga, collection of Mikhail de Buar. See Natalia Komashko, Alexander Preobrazhensky, Engelina Smirnova, Russian Icons in the Collection of Michael de Buar (Elizabethin), (Moscow, Pre-Press International, 2009)

Detail of fig. a. Detail of WW021

1. For an interesting article about the history and meaning of this inscription by Fr. Steven Bigham, 'On The Origin of Ὁ ὬΝ in The Halo of Christ', see:
2. Icons and Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church, (Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, 2004), p. 153-154; see also, Lossky, Ouspensky, The Meaning of Icons, (New York, SVSP, 1989), p. 213; Gregory Palamas, 'A Homily on the Dormition of Our Supremely Pure Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary', published online at:
3. See Stephen J. Shoemaker, 'Epiphanius of Salamis, the Kollyridians, and the Early Dormition Narratives: The Cult of the Virgin in the Fourth Century', in Journal of Early Christian Studies Volume 16, Number 3, Fall 2008, pp. 371-401

Detail Images