icon | New Testament Trinity

Icon: New Testament Trinity C-10

Crete, 17th century
Tempera on panel, 44.5 x 35.5 cm

Provenance: Private Collection, The Netherlands
ALR Ref. No: S00135820
Inquire for price
Inquire for price
  • Please fill in your name
  • Please fill in your e-mail address
  • If you don't check this, we cannot reply

Our icon depicts a representation of the New Testament Trinity. A large golden throne on a green and gold ground dominates the composition. Two figures in an almost identical pose are seated on the throne’s red pillows. On the left side, Christ wears a purple tunic with a red mantle decorated with chrysography. He holds a closed book with pearls and gems on his left knee while gazing at the viewer and making a blessing gesture. His feet rest on a footstool. On the right side of the composition, God the Father rests his right foot on a similar pedestal while raising his left foot. He holds a half open scroll. Similarly to Christ, He makes a blessing gesture and looks towards the viewer. His grey hair and full grey beard contrast with the juvenile brown hair of Christ the Son. Above the two figures a white dove with opened wings symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The dove stands out because of its depiction on a dark blue background, resembling a star existing of two superimposed lozenges. 

Byzantine icons depicting the Trinity usually show three angels after the scene of Abraham and Sarah welcoming three visitors in Genesis 18:1. This type is generally referred to as the Old Testament Trinity, also called the Hospitality of Abraham. The New Testament Trinity derives from two Biblical passages: Mark 16:19 and Luke 22:69. The latter reads: “But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69). Though described symbolically in the Bible, our icon illustrates this Biblical phrase in a literal sense. 

The orthodox type of the New Testament Trinity derived from Palaeologan prototypes,(1) and gained popularity from the fifteenth century, mainly in Cretan icons.(2) Variations of the composition with Christ and God seated on a throne and the Holy Spirit hovering over them, show a globe in between the Son and Father as for example in the New Testament Trinity icon in the Museo Correr, Venice.(3) Other compositions include the Virgin on the left side and Saint John the Forerunner on the right, to emulate a traditional Deesis scene with Christ Enthroned in the centre. Instead, now both the Son and the Father occupy the central throne in the New Testament Trinity panels.(4) Other icons depicting this type contain lavishly decorated backgrounds with slender edifices and additional figures, as for example the Trinity from the Benaki Museum. Here, the icon also contains inscriptions; above the figures, red Greek letters name Christ as “the Being” and God as “the Ancient of Days”.(5) Our Amsterdam panel focuses on the three main characters of the Trinity and omits additional figures and motives. Therefore our version of the New Testament Trinity stands out in its simplicity and serene focus on the figures of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

Lara Fernández Piqueras

1 Konstantinos Sp. Staikos, ed. “The Holy Trinity,” in: From the Incarnation of Logos to the Theosis of Man: Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Icons From Greece, Psychiko 2008, pp. 50, cat. no. 22.
2 Boris Rothemund, Handbuch der Ikonenkunst, Munich 1966, pp. 204.
3 Nano Chatzidakis, ed., Da Candia a Venezia: Icone Greche in Italia, XV-XVI secolo, Athens 1993, pp. 185, cat. 47.
4 A famous example is the “Trinity and Deesis,” from the Monastery of Saint Catherine on mount Sinai: The Sinai Icon Collection, accessed November 1, 2018, http://vrc.princeton.edu/sinai/items/show/7335. Another example constitutes a panel by Angelos (?) (Maria Vassilaki, The Painter Angelos and Icon-Painting in Venetian Crete, Farnham and Burlington 2009, pp. 181, fig. 9.15.
5 Konstantinos Sp. Staikos, ed. “The Holy Trinity,” in: From the Incarnation of Logos to the Theosis of Man: Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Icons From Greece, Psychiko 2008, pp. 50-51, cat. no. 22.