Icon of the Virgin, The (Crete, 17th c.) – T95


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Here is a truly exquisite portrait of the Virgin Mary in  close detail from the early 17th century.  It was made in Crete, which became a center for Post-Byzantine iconography after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, and many of the great iconographers of this period after that Fall went to Crete and expressed this transcendent art form there in rare perfection.  This is one of those fine and lively examples.

The Virgin is often shown in sacred iconography with an oval face, a thin neck, darkly-shadowed almond-shaped eyes, a small regal nose, and a small but expressive mouth.  This description comes from the writings of Ephiphanius of Constantinople, who died in 535, but he used earlier sources that referred back to the earliest icons of the Virgin which were painted from life by St. Luke the Evangelist.  In this icon, the Virgin Mary is looking both sideways and inwardly, where she is “pondering all these things in her heart,”  knowing her Son will die a violent death in love for all of us.  We see then a feeling of sadness and love on her face.  Let us look with her too, for, “the Kingdom of God is within.”

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Egg Tempera


Pushkin State Museum, Moscow, Russia


17th c. (Early)