Russian icon | Birth of the Virgin

Icon: Birth of the Virgin T-14

Russia, Volga-region, mid-17th century
Tempera on wood, 68 x 50 cm
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On the icon a homely scene unfolds against an architectural background. To the left Anna, the mother of the Virgin Mary is lying on a bed, supported by pillows. She is like an empress, surrounded by her servants. Behind the bed, two women are depicted, one presenting food and the other one holding a ripidion (ceremonial fan). In the foreground, to the right, the scene of The Virgin Mary’s first bath is shown. The newborn child sits on the lap of the midwife, who is represented with bare arms. With her hand the midwife feels the temperature of the water in the wash basin in front of her. A female servant pours water from a pitcher. Above, Anna and Joachim are sitting together, while cherishing their newborn child.

The Birth of the Virgin is one of the great feasts of the Orthodox Church, celebrated on September 8. The depiction of the Birth of the Virgin is derived entirely from apocryphal sources (the Proto-evangelium of James and the Pseudo-evangelium of Matthew). The icon comes from a feastday row of an iconostasis in a Russian orthodox church.