Greek icon | Madre della Consolazione

Icon: Madre della Consolazione K-13

Veneto-Cretan, second half 16th century
Tempera on panel, 53 x 42 cm

Private Collection, Germany
Morsink Icon Gallery, Amsterdam
ALR Ref. No: S00202152

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St George Slaying the Dragon
Crete, late 16th century, 50.5 х 40.5 cm
Historical Museum, Moscow

The Mother of God is depicted half-length against a black background, looking at the viewer with an expression of restraint and melancholy. The Virgin wears a dark blue tunic and a purple maphorion (mantle), fastened at the chest with a gold brooch. Her mantle is bordered  with gold motifs. A transparent white veil is draped over her hair. Holding Christ on her right arm, Mary gestures towards Him by resting her hand lovingly on his left leg. Christ holds an open scroll in his left hand with the following text written in Latin majuscules: EGO SUM LUX MUNDI (I am the light of the world). With his other hand He makes a sign of blessing. Christ’s face is turned to the left, while He is looking at the viewer, just like his mother. His undergarment is a dark blue tunic. His orange-red robe has a refined pattern of gold highlights accentuating the fall of the folds. At his right upper arm, a part of his white shirt is visible, reaching to his elbow.

The iconography of the Madre della Consolazione type is of Western origin. It has clearly been influenced by Italian prototypes from the 14th century. The icon’s Italian title refers to the suffering of Christ, as anticipated by his mother. This example can be placed in the general context of Italo-Cretan icons produced on the island of Crete during its Venetian occupation, but has some distinctive stylistic characteristics. What immediately catches the eye is the broad red band which borders the icon. It is decorated with fine floral motifs executed in gold. To the left and to the right, the figures of the Virgin and Child partially exceed this band, thus creating an illusion of three-dimensionality. A similar decoration along the border of the panel can be seen in an icon of St George of almost the same size, now in the  collection of the Historical Museum in Moscow (ill. 1). Another interesting detail in our icon is the shape of the large gold star applied on the shoulder of the Virgin, of which the rays end as flowing lines, just like the rays of the slightly different star shape on Christ’s chest. The style of painting betrays the hand of a confident master, who was in all probability active in the second half of the 16th century.