Simon Ushakov was the founder of the famous Armory School of Iconography in late 17th century Moscow and is considered a master iconographer. This icon is from his hand and heart and, as all of his icons, shows a particular merciful tenderness that is distinctive and lively, and very engaging to behold by the Faithful. The eyes especially express this mercifulness, which is the very meaning of the Eleusa or Merciful style of icons.
The original Vladimir icon is attributed by tradition to the hand of St. Luke the Evangelist, considered the very first iconographer, who painted the Virgin from life. It was brought to Vladimir, one of the cities of the Golden Ring around Moscow, by the Great Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky in 1161 from Kiev, where it had been brought from Constantinople just six years earlier.
The close embrace shows the wonderful tender relationship of the Virgin with her Divine Son, that is always present in icons patterned after this most famous and beloved iconographic form from Vladimir. May we all be inspired to reach out, as did the Virgin Mary, to touch tenderly the heart of the living God!