Mother of God Gruzinskaya
- Artist: Ukjent kunstner, Novgorod-skolen (Artist - uncertain)
- Creation date: Begynnelsen eller første halvdel av 1500-tallet
- Object type: Icon
The Virgin Mary, denominated the “Mother of God” in the Russian Orthodox tradition, is shown carrying the Infant Jesus on her left arm. With her right hand she points to the boy as the Saviour; she is Hodegetria, “She Who Shows the Way”, one of the oldest and most important iconographic depictions of the Virgin Mary. Legend has it that it was Luke the Evangelist who first painted the image of the Infant Jesus on the Virgin’s arm. This icon was supposedly stored in the Hodegon Monastery in Constantinople, before being duplicated in countless other icons and then disappearing without a trace.
The iconography includes several fixed symbols of theological import: The Virgin’s sombre mien and bent, covered head express both her veneration of her son and her pain over his future death on the Cross. Her reddish brown cape has been adorned with three stars, signifying the Virgin’s status as the Queen of Heaven and her virginity before, during, and after giving birth. The Infant Jesus is depicted as a learned priest, with a scroll in the one hand and making a sign of benediction with the other.
An icon is a sacred picture that is particularly associated with the theology, churches, and religious services of the Orthodox Church. An icon is usually painted with egg tempera on specially prepared wood panels in a traditional style. This style featured simplified elements and accentuated the surface, as in this Russian icon from Novgorod. The picture’s neutral gold-leaf background, pure, chromatic fields, symmetry, and clear contours are all characteristic elements. The Late Middle Ages witnessed the emergence of an autonomous Russian style that combined Byzantine impulses with elements from folk art. Icons were often painted by anonymous monks.