The half length figure of Christ, gazing directly at the viewer, blessing with his right hand and holding the gospel in his left, is the most enduring and unchanging image in the eastern Christian church. We recognise it as easily in the sixth century (Fig. 1) as in the thirteenth (Fig. 2) or the seventeenth (No. 22). In the early Byzantine periods the book is closed. This changed around the eleventh century to an open book, generally displaying the text from St John’s gospel. Christ is clothed in the traditional robes of a philosopher in the Greco-Roman period. The vividly contrasting colours, the blue himation over a maroon chiton are typical for the late sixteenth or seventeenth century (Fig. 3).
Icons of monumental proportions such as the present example would be placed at eye level next to the Royal Doors of an iconostasis (Fig. 3). At certain points in the Byzantine liturgy the priest turns to the icons of the Mother of God and of Christ reciting prayers that invoke their presence and their blessing.