Icon Gallery : Room 1


11th century
174 x 122. Egg tempera on lime wood.
Two-side icon. Reverse side: The Virgin Hodigitria [12th(?)-17th cc.]. From the Dormition Cathedral of the Kremlin, Moscow.
#966, col. 25, Dorm.
140k, jpeg.

St. George is one of most favorite personages of the Christian pantheon of saints. His legendary life is shown from the 5th century when the iconography of his image as a holy warrior and a great martyr, was depicted in Byzantium, in the city of Thessalonica where in the 5th century a church was erected and consecrated in his honor. The fact that St. George was the patron saint of Kyivan Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise (978-1054) who was baptized with the name of George, greatly favored St. George's cult in Kyivan Rus'. Thus, in Kyiv's St. Sophia Cathedral (1017), a chapel was consecrated in honor of St. George and its walls, vaults and the concha of the apse feature frescos representing scenes from his life. Not far from the St. Sophia, St. George's Cathedral was erected (1037-1050s) which has not survived to the present.
The Icon St. George is one of the few preserved from those remote years. It illustrates the ideal of Old Rus' warrior. One cannot but feel an epic mood permeating the icon and an echo of Hellenistic traditions. The icon is huge: the saint's stature is twice a normal man's size. The elevated but reserved manner, impeccable painting and lines are typical of other masterpieces created during the rule of Old Rus' Grand Princes. In fact, this icon might have been the principal one in Kyiv's St. George's Cathedral.


12th century
194 x 120. Egg tempera on lime wood.
From the Monastery of the Savior in Yaroslavl. Tretyakov Gallery, Russia.
159k, jpeg.

The Image of the Virgin Orans bearing the medallion with the representation of the Child in her bossom, which is called Platytera (Greek for incarnation) was widespread in various kinds of visual arts in Byzantium and Old Rus': in monumental and icon painting as well as in sculpture. Mary with her hands spread and raised to the level of her head was treated as the Mother of God in prayer. The medallion in her bossom featuring the image of Christ Emmanuel symbolized the immaculate conception and divine nature of Christ.
The origin of the icon is associated with the name of legendary Kyiv icon painter, Alipy (Olimpy), a monk of the Kyiv-Pechersk monastery who was later canonized.
The icon belongs to a small number of works painted with egg tempera which are very close to Kyiv mosaics in the artistic devices used. It is marked by a strict silhouette, fine and decisive line, and shows the artist's propensity for gold highlights on garments which lend the image some mystic quality.
The Virgin Platytera is a masterpiece of icon painting dating from Kyivan Rus'.


Late 14th century
80 x 48. Egg tempera on the lime wood.
From the Intercession Church in Lutsk. The Ukrainian State Museum of Ukrainian Fine Arts.
# i-414
131k, jpeg.

The Virgin of Volhynia belongs to the so-called Odegetria type of Byzantine provenance, the type most popular in the Ukraine. Legends associate its origin with the name of St. Luke the Evangelist, who was not only a writer, the author of a Gospel, but an artist as well. The first icon of Odegetria painted by him was passed on to Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch. After his death it was transferred to Jerusalem where it was rediscovered by Eudocia, wife of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius, in the 5th century. From then on the icon was kept in the Ton Hodigon Church until its destruction in 1453 during the Turkish invasion. Some scholars hold that the name Odegetria (Directress) appeared under the special influence of the name of church. The Odegetria type of icon is a representation of Mary and Child. Jesus usually holds a scroll of Gospel in His left hand and gives a blessing with His right. In most analogous icons the Virgin's maphorion bears three stars (originally crosses) which symbolize chastity. In this icon, the maphorion is decorated with four stars arranged cross-like, a symbol which was found occasionally in the Middle Ages and which enhanced the significance of the icon.
The icon from the Intercession Church was renowned as an agent of miracles. Poem- prayers were composed about it, and at various times it was given a special place in honor in the church, in which connection it suffered greatly. In the 18th century both upper corners of it's panel were removed in order to install the icon in a new case, while the representation itself was plated with a bronze gilt. In the 19th century, when the icon was transferred to a new icon-case designed in the classical style, the panel, together with the mounting, was cut from the sides, so that the icon lost its initial almost square form and original margins with their two pink bands of different tones. The background of the icon was also spoiled being covered with red velvet and plaster stars set on it with the help of thick metal pintles.
The present meticulous restoration of the icon was executed by M.V. Pertsev.


14th century
67 x 69. Egg tempera on lime wood.
From the Church of SS Joachim and Anna in the village of Stanylya, Lviv region. Lviv National Museum.
# i-2575
154k, jpeg.

Along with his image as holy warrior and martyr, in the 12th century there appeared an image of St. George the Dragon-Slayer that become widely popular in medieval art. St. George (or St. Yur, as he was often called in Ukraine) was a favorite folk hero. In folk consciousness he was the patron of farmers and cattle breeders, and beasts obeyed him.
The icon reproduced here is one of the earliest representations of this theme in Ukrainian painting. It is said to come from St. Yur's Church in Drohobych, one of the oldest wooden churches in the Ukraine. The icon is the embodiment of simplicity. Its composition has no minor details, everything being subordinated to the representation on combat in which St.Yur is the main hero and victor. The graceful and energetic rider in knightly attire strikes the dragon with his spear. His cannabarine cloak contrasts with the black horse treated conventionally and flatly which looks like a heraldic symbol. The combat of St. George with the dragon is interpreted as the triumph of Christianity over paganism, the triumph of justice over falsehood. The black color of the horse is rare though not unique for this subject, emphasizing the decorativeness of the icon and its dramatic nature.

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