Icon: Mother of God Glykophilousa C-4
- Veneto-Cretan, 16th century
- Tempera on panel, 47.8 x 38.2 cm
- Provenance: Private Collection, Italy
- ALR Ref. No: 10877.23.WK
This icon, representing the Mother of God caressing the Christ Child against her cheek, follows the type of the Glykophilousa, meaning “sweet-kissing” in Greek. This type first appeared after the Iconoclasm of 724-843 and became popular in the tenth century.(1) The half-length Virgin wears a red maphorion trimmed with orange and gold that leaves a small part of her blue tunic visible. Three gold stars decorate the Madonna’s cloak draped over her right shoulder. The mantle’s orange lining is embellished with gold fringes. The artist rendered the maphorion with many dark ridges and bright highlights to suggest a heavy fabric. The Madonna and Christ enchant the viewer with their intense gazes. The Virgin carries the Christ Child with her left hand and holds his left hand with her right hand. The punched haloes around the figures’ heads meet at their loving cheek-to-cheek contact. The floral decorations and undulating lines recall haloes with Veneto-Cretan origins.(2) Both figures are identifiable by their abbreviated names in red, written in Greek: MP ΘΥ (Μήτηρ θεού, Mother of God) and IC ΧC (’Ιησους Χριστòς, Jesus Christ), which appear on the gold background in the upper part of the panel.
The Child’s green chiton with red decorations contrasts with his bright orange robe and his mother’s red maphorion. The painter rendered the orange cloak with a highlighting technique similar to the maphorion, but in the case of Christ, the highlights are applied in the typically Byzantine method called chrysography, consisting of fine gold lines. The technique of the figures’ carnation differs from traditional Byzantine paintings of the Mother of God Glykophilousa.(3) In orthodox icons, the painter models flesh tones with highlights, whereas our Cretan panel shows a very gradual transition between light and shade. This places our icon in a Veneto-Cretan tradition with a strongly Western influenced treatment of the carnation.(4)
The detail of the sandal on Christ’s left foot and the sandal missing on his right foot correspond to the archetypical Madonna of the Passion, as does the scroll in Christ’s right hand that appears underneath the Virgin and the Child’s intertwining hands.(5) The Madonna of the Passion’s introduction in art relates to the Cretan master Andreas Ritzos.(6) His Mother of God type emerged since the end of the fifteenth century and rapidly gained popularity. Similarly to the Madonna of the Passion, Andreas Ritzos again played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Glykophilousa type in which he merged two iconographies from Veneto-Cretan icon traditions.(7) The combination of elements from the Madonna of the Passion (the loose sandal and scroll) and Glykophilousa (the cheek-to-cheek embrace) created a new iconographic type in Cretan icons, among them our Amsterdam Mother of God Glykophilousa.
Lara Fernández Piqueras