Artemios is depicted half-length in Byzantine military garb, wearing scaled armour and a red cloak - symbolising martyrdom - embroidered with gold. In his right hand he holds a spear, and in his left a sword. Behind his left shoulder, a richly patterned roundel indicates his shield. The scalloped halo brings a rich textural quality to the icon. Our icon is purely Byzantine in style and is the product of a workshop unaffected by the Fall of Constantinople some one hundred years previous to its production, or the development of the Venetian-Cretan school.
What we know about this historical figure comes from the eighth century account Atermii Passio. What we can glean from it is that Saint Artemios was a general on the staff of the Emperor Constantine I (272-373). He was Governor of Egypt and responsible for the translation of the relics of Saint Andrew the Apostle and Saint Luke the Evangelist to Constantinople. He died a martyr at Antioch in the reign of Julian the Apostate (r. 361 – 362) whom he had served in the war against the Persians.
A characteristic of Saint Artemios, which he shares with Saint Niketas, are his ‘Christ-like’ features, such as is seen in the Parekklesion (side-chapel) of the Karii Camii, the 14th century Church of the Chora, Constantinople (Figs. 1 & 2). The Painters Manual, the traditional iconographic handbook of saints as well as the Hermenia of Dion Niketas state that Artemios should be depicted like Christ1 thereby allowing a visual means of expressing the saint’s proximity to him.2 3 Further evidence of this Christ-like appearance is found on the walls of the Protaton (Main Church) of Mount Athos where there is a fine fresco by Manuel Panselinos which also attributes a Christ-like appearance to the saint (Fig. 3).
Further images of Artemios are found at the Capella Palatina, Sicily; Martorano, Sicily; Chapel of Saint George in St Paul’s Monastery on Mount Athos; Panagia of the Archon Apostolke at Kastoria; and the Vatopedi Monastery – all this shows his popularity in monumental church decoration.