Hodegetria Balkans, 19th century. Hardwood single panel. Tempera on ground chalk, gilded background . Image-filling representation of The God Mother showing half-length with Christ in her left arm. He is blessing and holding a scroll in his right arm. Framed. Losses. 26.5 x 20 cm
A Hodegetria (literally: "She who shows the Way"; or Virgin Hodegetria, is an iconographic depiction of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) holding the Child Jesus at her side while pointing to Him as the source of salvation for mankind. In the Western Church this type of icon is sometimes called Our Lady of the Way.
The designation of Hodegetria or “She Who Points the Way” did not originate from Mary’s gesture toward her son. Instead, it refers to the famous prototype of the miraculous icon of the Virgin—the model for all other icons of this type—belonging to the Hodegon Monastery of Constantinople.
No evidence exists for the Hodegon Monastery, or any Hodegetria icons, before the Byzantine iconoclastic controversies of the 700s and early 800s.
The Virgin Hodegetria came to prominence in the early 11th century, triggering the creation of a myth that linked its origin with the early history of Byzantium. As a way of supporting the legitimacy of icon veneration during the Iconoclasm (controversies that barred the production and use of figural images, spanning roughly a century 726–87 and 815–43) this specific icon was said to trace back to a mid-8th-century legend of a portrait of Mary painted during her lifetime by the Apostle Luke. By claiming the involvement of the hand of the evangelist, the legend around the Hodegetria was fabricated, evidence for the apostolic origins and divine approval of images. More