Greek icon | St Nicholas

Icon: St Nicholas A-7

Crete, early 16th century
Tempera on wood, 28,5 x 21.5 cm

Janos Wagner Collection, Hungary
Morsink Icon Gallery, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
ALR Ref. No.: S00128093


Simon Morsink

Against a gold ground, St Nicholas is represented as a bishop from his waist upwards. He can be easily identified from his high, balding forehead (a sign of his goodness and wisdom), his short, grey hair and full, round beard. He wears the liturgical robes of a bishop of the Orthodox Church, an orange-red chasuble (phelonion) and a white stole (omophorion) decorated with large black crosses. With his right hand, he is making a gesture of blessing (the thumb touching the fourth finger), and with his other hand, he holds a closed book of gospels. On either side of his shoulders are traces of a Greek inscription in cinnabar red letters identifying him as St Nicholas.
The icon reproduces the iconographic type of St Nicholas which appears to have been established in the 15th century, based on late Palaeologan models ((Drandaki 2002, p. 88; Vassilaki 2010, pp. 198, 199; Chatzidakis 2007, pp. 324, 325, cat. no. 178). The type is known from an icon by the hand of Angelos Akotantos on Corfu from the first half of the 15th century (Vassilaki 2010, p. 198, 199), and from several icons by the Cretan painter Andreas Ritzos (1421-1492) such as the very similar bust image of St Nicholas on a panel from the church of St Nicholas in Bari, Italy, which also depicts the Virgin and St John the Theologian (Vassilaki 2010, p. 125, fig. 28). Yet the style of painting of our icon is less sophisticated compared to the icons of these two famous 15th-century painters. However, it is without doubt that the Cretan master of this well-painted image, which in all probability dates to the early 16th century, was thoroughly familiar with 15th-century Cretan icon painting.

Drandaki 2002
A.Drandaki, Greek Icons. 14th-18th century. The Rena Andreadis Collection, Milan 2002
Acheimastou-Potamianou 1998
M. Acheimastou-Potamianou, Icons of the Byzantine Museum of Athens, 1998
Vassilaki 2010
M. Vassilaki, The Hand of Angelos: An Icon Painter in Venetian Crete, Athens 2010
N. Chatzidakis, The Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos Museum: Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art, Athens 2007