[ Click on the above image for a full screen view ]
Saint Athanasios (left) and Saint Charalambos (right) stand facing the viewer with almost identical poses: their right hands are raised in a gesture of oration, while their left hands hold closed gospels. Though Charalambos' left hand is covered by his vestment. They are both clothed in the vestments of a bishop. They are mainly distinguishable by their beards: Athanasios has a wider, shovel-shaped beard, while Charalambos' beard is more pointed.
Saint Athanasios of Alexandria (296-373), Confessor and Doctor of the Church, was the great champion of belief in the Incarnation and in his lifetime earned the characteristic title of "Father of Orthodoxy". He was immensely influential as a theologian and possessed a powerful personality. He was at the centre of the main controversies of his day including that of the Arian ‘heresy’. One of his most popular writings is his Life of St Anthony, which gives vivid accounts of the Desert Father (Saint Anthony the Great) who was one of the first saints to live a life of strict asceticism. The text has been described as a 'valuable source for early monasticism'.
Saint Charalambos, was also an early Christian bishop (in Magnesia, Asia Minor). He lived in the reign of the Emperor Septimus Severus (193-211) and died a martyr, persecuted for preaching Christianity. Many were converted through his steadfastness and fortitude in the face of suffering.
The distinctive style of our example suggests that it was created at the Chilandar Monastery on Mount Athos in the 17th century. The Chilandar Monastery is well-known for its rich icon-painting tradition, which dates back to 12th century. For example, if we compare it with two other icons we can see the same facial characteristics - with their large, engaged eyes that gaze directly at the onlooker, - the same style of vestments, the general colouring, and the intaglioed patterns that decorate the halo's.