- Museum number
- Object: The Mother of God Smolenskaya
Icon; painted; the Mother of God is depicted from the waist up holding the Christ child. Christ is portrayed in an erect frontal pose, blessing with his right hand and holding a closed scroll in his left. The Virgin wears a purple 'maphorion' with a green kerchief on her head. Christ wears an orange/ochre 'himation' and a brownish tunic underneath.
The icon is enclosed by a 16th-century silver-gilt revetment ('riza') decorated with embossed floral ornament. The applied 19th-century haloes are decorated with turquoise, blue and green filigree enamel.
Inscriptions: in Greek on two applied medallions flanking the Virgin's head: MP ΘY (Mother of God); on an applied medallion above Christ's head: IC ΧC (Jesus Christ); on Christ's halo: O WΗ (He Who Is).
Egg tempera on wood, silver-gilt and enamelled revetment
- Production date
Height: 74.50 centimetres
Width: 52.50 centimetres
Depth: 3.80 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- This iconographic type, known in Russia as the Mother of God Smolenskaya, was a variant of an earlier Byzantine icon known as the ‘Hodegetria’ (Gr. ‘she who shows the way’). According to legend this icon had been painted from life by St Luke and was eventually taken from Palestine to Constantinople in the 5th century. By the 12th century the icon was kept in the Hodegon monastery in Constantinople. An icon of this type was brought to Rus in the 11th century by the Byzantine princess Anna, daughter of the Emperor Constantine IX (1042–55), at the time of her marriage to Prince Vsevolod of Kiev (1030–93). From the 12th century onwards the icon was kept in the Dormition cathedral in Smolensk. A copy of the Byzantine prototype was painted shortly after 1456 for the Annunciation cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin and was glorified with the name ‘Smolenskaya’. It became particularly venerated after 1514 when Smolensk was incorporated into the Russian state. From the 15th–16th centuries onwards it became one of the most revered images of the Virgin and was widely copied. It was credited with having saved the Russian state from invaders, including the defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Borodino in 1812.
Another copy of the original Hodegetria icon, which had been brought from Constantinople by a bishop of Suzdal, was kept in the Voznesenskij monastery of the Moscow Kremlin. This icon was damaged by fire in 1482 and Dionysii subsequently repainted the image of the Hodegetria on the same panel: this icon is now in the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow (Vzdornov, Danilova, Popov and Sharomazov 2002, no. 45). The Dionysii icon became a model for later Moscow icons depicting the Mother of God Smolenskaya, such as a number of 16th-century icons from the Pokrovski monastery in Suzdal and now in the Russian Museum, St Petersburg (see: Smirnova 1988, pls 133–4; Petrova 1995, pls 107–10).
Cormack 2007, 17, fig. 10 and 136, no. 94.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2015 15 Sep-10 Jan, USA, Norfolk, Chrysler Museum of Art, Byzantium to Russia: The origins and development of Russian icons 1200 to 1900.
2015 30 Apr- 22 Aug, USA, Clinton, Museum of Russian Icons, Byzantium to Russia: The origins and development of Russian Icons 1200 to 1900.
2009 11 Dec-2010 10 May, Madrid, Canal de Isabel II, Treasures of the World’s Cultures
2009 1 May-20 Sep, Victoria, Royal BC Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
- Made from two panels joined by three inserted battens on the reverse; the panel is slightly curved and there are a few scattered abrasions on the surface of the painting. Part of the right hand of the Virgin and the lower part of her mantle have been reconstructed during the course of recent restoration.
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: IC 96 (Icon Collection number)