There is not always agreement between Church Tradition and art historians on the particular details of icons’ origins. This icon “of the Sign” is assigned by Tradition to the hand of St. Alypy of the Kiev Caves Monastery, the first iconographer of Russia in the 11th century. Other art historians assign it to a later unknown iconographer at the Monastery of the Saviour in Yaroslavl about a.d. 1224, the date that the monastery church was dedicated.
The icon is also called the Virgin Great Panagia (from the Greek word “All-Pure” used to describe the state of the Theotokos’ heart, mind, and soul) and is of the iconographic type of “Platytera” or “More Spacious Than the Heavens” for she bore He Who was greater than all the earth. The circular medallion with Christ symbolizes His invisible presence within her womb. Two angels from the upper corners look on with praise and adoration at the Virgin Mother full with their God awaiting to be born on earth. This icon shares many characteristics of form with the Byzantine icons of that same era, with the bright colors a Russian addition. Her hands are raised in prayer as are the earliest icons in the Catacombs.