108 

Icon: Smolenskaya Mother of God


Number: 108 Period: late 16th century
Name: Icon: Smolenskaya Mother of God Size: 32 x 27 cm
Origin: Russia Price: on request


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. An icon of this type was brought to Russia in the 11th century by the Byzantine princess Anna as part of her dowry at the time of her marriage to Prince Vsevolod of Kiev (1030–93).  The icon is named Smolenskaya, because it was kept in the Dormition cathedral in Smolensk. 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.

The icon is celebrated July 28.

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 brown/purple ‘maphorion’.  Christ wears an orange/ochre ‘himation’ with silver and gold accents.

On the reverse is a label: no 4639 Russian Imperial Exhibits and a label: Hammer Galleries, 682 Fifth Avenue, New York (August, 2-31, 1937).

In the 1920s, the Soviet government began selling antiques and art to acquire foreign currency as well as to dispose of religious images from the new atheistic society. It was through the various commission shops that many of the best Russian icons and objects of art were bought by those westerners who were able to travel to the Soviet at this time. In the 1930s exhibitions of Russian icons were organised by Hammer Galleries.



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