Thursday, December 7, 2017

04 Icons from the Bible, with footnotes, #18

Mother of God Znamenie
Russian icon, first half of 19th c.
38 x 30,5 cm
Private collection

The Icon of the Mother of God, named the "Sign" ("Znamenie"), shows the Most Holy Mother of God seated with prayerfully uplifted hands.  On Her bosom, against the background of a circular shield (or sphere) – is the Divine Infant giving a blessing.

The Mother of God, known under the name "Znamenie-Sign", appeared in Rus' during the XI-XII Centuries, and were called such after a miraculous "Sign" from the Novgorod Icon, which occurred in the year 1170, the year the allied forces of the Russian appanage princes, marched to the the very walls of Great Novgorod.

For the Novgorod people the only hope remaining was in the help of God. Day and night they prayed, beseeching the Lord not to forsake them. On the third night the Novgorod bishop Ilia heard a voice commanding to take out, from the church of the Saviour–Transfiguration the image of the Most Holy Mother of God, and to carry it about on the city walls. When they carried about the icon – the enemy let loose at the church procession an hail of arrows, and one of them pierced the iconographic countenance of the Mother of God. From Her eyes trickled tears, and the icon turned its face towards the city. After such a Divine Sign there suddenly fell upon the enemy an inexpressible terror, they began to strike at one another, and taking encouragement from the Lord the Novgorodians fearlessly gave battle and gained the victory. 

Numerous copies of the Znamenie-Sign Icon are known of throughout all Russia. Many of them subsequently also were glorified by miracles in their local churches, and were then named for the place of the appearance of the miracle. More on the Mother of God Znamenie

Piero della Francesca, (1420–1492)
Madonna del Parto, c. 1467
Museo della Madonna del Parto, Monterchi

A Madonna del Parto is an iconic depiction of the Virgin Mary shown as pregnant, which was developed in Italy, mainly in Tuscany in the 14th century. Examples include works by Taddeo Gaddi, Bernardo Daddi and Nardo di Cione. The Madonna was portrayed standing, alone, often with a closed book on her belly, an allusion to the Incarnate Word. The works were associated with the devotions of pregnant women, praying for a safe delivery.

Piero della Francesca (1415 – 1492) was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance. As testified by Giorgio Vasari in his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, to contemporaries he was also known as a mathematician and geometer. Nowadays Piero della Francesca is chiefly appreciated for his art. His painting was characterized by its serene humanism, its use of geometric forms and perspective. His most famous work is the cycle of frescoes The History of the True Cross in the church of San Francesco in the Tuscan town of Arezzo. More on Piero della Francesca

Christ is carrying our cross
 Russian icon, 19th c. 
31,2 x 26,5 cm
Private collection

The thematically singular icon shows the cross-carrying Christ in the midst of many crosses. The crosses have the following inscriptions: Spitefulness, disobedience of the children, slapping of the poor, unthankfulness, sarcasm, "He carries our sins and suffers for us",thievery, blasphemy, denial of mortification, brand, imprisoning someone in who has done no wrong, buggery, sudden death, hurts, ire, persecution through enemies, defamation, hunger, disturbance, gluttony, overhasty revenge, untruth, quittance, disharmonious marriage, without repentance, blasphemy, adultery, pauperism, diseases, unfair punishment, sacrilege. 

The text below is taken from Matth. 16,24:"Jesus said to his disciples, if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." More on this icon

Assay Master: Alexander Mitin, (1842-1877)
Artist: Dmitry Smirnov, (1836-1865)
Mother of God "Surety of sinners"
Russian icon with silver oklad, St. Petersburg 1852
9 x 7 cm
Private collection

The Icon of the Mother of God “Surety of Sinners” is known by this name because of the inscription on the icon: “I am the Surety of sinners for My Son Who has entrusted Me to hear them, and those who bring Me the joy of hearing them will receive eternal joy through Me.” The Mother of God embraces Her Child, Who holds Her right hand with both His hands so that Her thumb is in His right hand, and Her small finger in His left hand. This is the gesture of one who gives surety for another.

The basis of the icon is to be found in the Akathist to the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos: “Rejoice, You Who offer Your hands in surety for us to God.”

The “Surety of Sinners” icon of the Mother of God was in an old chapel beyond the monastery gates, and stood between two other ancient icons. Because it was so faded and covered with dust, it was impossible to read the inscription.

In 1843 it was revealed to many of the people in dreams that the icon was endowed with miraculous power. They solemnly brought the icon into the church. Believers began to flock to it to pray for the healing of their sorrows and sicknesses. The first to receive healing was a crippled child, whose mother prayed fervently before the icon in 1844. The icon was glorified during a cholera epidemic, when many people fell deathly ill, and were restored to health after praying before the icon. More on the Mother of God “Surety of Sinners

The history of the Mandylio
Russian icon, end of 17th c
30,7 x 25,8 cm
Private collection

According to Christian tradition, the Image of Edessa was a holy relic consisting of a square or rectangle of cloth upon which a miraculous image of the face of Jesus had been imprinted—the first icon. In the Orthodox Churches, including English-speaking Orthodoxy, the image is generally known as the Mandylion. More on Mandylio

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