Virgin Eleusa of Vladimir
Detail from "The Virgin Eleusa of Vladimir"
This dazzling jeweled icon in triptych form includes a central panel of the Mother of God and Christ Child and forty-six secondary paintings. All are overlaid with a patterned revetment of chased silver. The central section of the triptych shows the Mother of God and the Christ Child surrounded by twenty-two smaller images in little arched apertures of silver. These border scenes relate to the Lives of Christ and the Mother of God. Each of the wings of the triptych contains twelve miniature paintings arranged in six horizontal rows of two images each.
The left wing includes from the top, patriarchs, apostles, prelates, princes, and holy women. The right wing shows, from the top, prophets, male martyrs, holy fathers, hermits, and female martyrs. Russian saints are scattered among the prelates, princes, holy fathers, and hermits.
The central iconography of this complex little work is that of the "Mother of God of Tenderness" (Eleusa), which developed in Byzantium and spread widely in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Specifically, the triptych is intended to convey the essence of an image associated with miracles and first venerated in the region of Vladimir. Icons of this image came to be considered the protecting spirit of the Russian state and were given the name of "The Vladimir Mother of God." Such an icon was credited with the deliverance of Moscow during the attack by Tamerlane in 1395, and accordingly many replicas were subsequently produced.
The painting of the triptych is apparently the work of Procopius Chirin of Moscow, while the silver revetment was crafted at the Stroganov workshop. The entire work was most probably commissioned by Nikita Grigorievich Stroganov (d. 1618), the principal patron of icons for the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Solvychegodsk.