Temple Gallery

Established 1959

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

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ZZ005. Virgin of Vladimir

Circa 1600
30.8 x 26.1 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

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The Virgin of Vladimir (‘Vladimirskaya’). The composition follows that of the great icon painted in Constantinople in the late eleventh century and brought to Russia shortly after, since when it has been the chief palladium of the Russian state, protecting the Russian people, delivering them from enemies and performing many miracles. The Virgin’s glance varies; sometimes it is down, towards her son, sometimes outwards towards the onlooker. The composition, in the embrace of the two figures, characterises tenderness (Russian: ‘Oumileinye’).

A number of copies of the Vladimirskaya were made in Russia in the 15th and 16th centuries. Apart from the direction of the look, there is little or no variation in either the colour scheme or the composition. The emotional tone, however, can vary considerably and is achieved through the subtlest alterations. In some examples, through the slightly paler and warmer tonality of the ochre or the almond shaped eyes of the Virgin, the aspect of tenderness is enhanced; whereas in other examples we feel more a grave and pensive mood of the Virgin.

According to ancient tradition, the original version was painted by St Luke who made a portrait of the Virgin during her lifetime. On seeing it, so the story goes, she said ‘In this image is my grace and power’ and then quoted Luke’s gospel ‘All generations shall call me blessed’.