9. ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON
Late l5th century
114 x 79. Egg tempera on lime wood.
From the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the village of Zvyzhen, Lviv region.
The Ukrainian State Museum of Ukrainian Fine Arts.
In this icon the artist turned to the type of subject most popular in the Ukraine, which includes an episode of St. George's rescue of Princess Elisava from a ravenous dragon. Such was the subject in folklore: "There were pagan people who did not believe in God, but in Smok, a ferocious Dragon with flame blazing from its mouth and sparks flashing from its eyes. They sacrificed to Smok a man every hour. Then came the time for the czar either to come himself, or to give it his daughter. And so St. Yur came on a white horse and carrying a spear. He struck Smok between the eyes, slaying him forever. This is written to the whole world, sent to all people, to read and to write, St. George to glorify."
Unlike other icons on this subject, the artist solved the problem of composition in an original way: here the spear with which the saint slays the dragon is leveled by an angel which has appeared from the sky (in other icons an angel crowns St. George), and the horse's hooves trample the dragon while Princess Elisava, full of gratitude, kneels before the victor. The background of the icon against which the event is developing is also unusual: it presents a Gothic castle with its unique decorations, like pinnacles, weather-vanes, and gears to raise a drawbridge; even guards are represented as two knights with spears. A crowd of witnesses is on the tower, including Elisava's parents with crowns on their heads.
Despite a certain Gothic influence evident also in definite stylistic devices like the sharply broken folds of St. George's red cloak, the icon bears traditional features of Ukrainian art: decorative flatness and obligatory conventionality, due to which the life of a saint was never identified with the life of a common man.
10. THE VIRGIN ODEGETRIA
91.5 x 77.5. Egg tempera on lime wood
From St. Demetrius' Church in the village of Krasiv, Lviv region.
Lviv National Museum.
The icon presents a classical type of the Virgin Odegetria (see No. 3). Its originality lies in the representation of half-figures of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, which enhance the solemn character of the image and impart to it the meaning of Majesty. It is one of the first Ukrainian icons which rendered a highly lyrical image of Mary as Odegetria, somewhat unusual for the Directress. She possesses a special maidenly beauty, charming in its refinement. Her head is covered with a dark-red maphorion, her neck is long and her adoring eyes seem to be full of sadness. The entire image of the Virgin is permeated with an unending sense of desolation, as, with a delicate gesture at her right hand, she points to the Child who is under an imminent death penalty. The image of Mary admirably comprises Hellenic and Byzantine features. Little Christ is shown as a sage who gives a blessing with His right hand while in the left He holds a Gospel scroll. He is concentrated and restrained, as though having a foreboding of His future sufferings.
This icon belonging to the Lviv painting school served as a pattern for numerous works of the same type executed in Lviv Region in the mid-l6th century.
11. THE TRANSFIGURATION
110 x 79. Egg tempera on lime wood.
From St. Demetrius' Church in the village of Zhogatyn (Poland).
Lviv National Museum
The subject is based on narration found in the Gospels of St. Mark, St. Matthew and St. Luke. They tell how, accompanied by His three closest disciples, Peter, James and John, Christ ascended Mount Tabor to pray. While He was praying, the Apostles were overpowered by sleep. They were roused from their slumber by the shining radiance of glory - an overpowering light streaming from the Lord, and they beheld Christ's countenance shining as the sun, and His raiments white as the light (Matt. 17:2). The Apostles beheld standing next to Christ two men, Moses and Elijah. The Transfiguration is one of the Twelve High Feasts, and churches were dedicated to it as early as the times of Kyivan Rus'.
On the icon from St. Demetrius' Church, Christ is represented full-length in white
attire and seated in a mandorla, which symbolizes His glory and looks: like two rhombi inscribed in a circle with rays. Flanking Him are the Prophets Elijah and Moses. Below are the Apostles, overwhelmed by the miraculous phenomenon of the transfiguration. St. Peter
pathetically addresses Jesus Christ, St. James sits pondering and shielding his eyes from the bright light, and St. John is seen falling from the mount (to emphasize the energy of the Apostle's falling the artist painted details such as a sandal dropping from his foot). The artist's brushwork is spirited and somewhat sketchy. Being blessed with an unusual feeling for coloring, he paints every figure with a bright clear color against the restrained warm- green background of hills, thus attaining not only a decorative effect but a certain dramatic quality inherent in the subject itself.
12. THE DEESIS
Late 15th - early 16th century
141 x 102. Egg tempera on lime wood.
From the village of Richytsya, Rivne region.
Rivne Museum of Local Lore.
At the turn of the 16th century a rare type of the image of Christ Pantocrator (or the Omnipotent) became popular in the Ukraine. It presents Christ's figure, more often knee-length (sometimes full-length, sitting on the throne), in a characteristic almost frontal posture. He is blessing with His right hand while in His left one He holds the open Book of Gospel. Peculiar for this composition is the representation of half-figures of the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist flanking the head of the Savior, and of the Twelve Apostles on borders from both sides. In fact, it is a complete Deesis. Such composition of the Deesis which comprised a register of the iconostasis is not yet found in Ukrainian art of the period, later, however, from the latter half of the 16th century, The Deesis included only Christ Pantocrator, the Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist and the Twelve Apostles, six on each side.
The icon from the village of Richytsya is a monument of exceptional artistic quality
demonstrating the traditions of the painting technique in Kyivan Rus'. The immaculate
representation of every image, the refined coloring and a subtle taste of the artist speak of a
major school of some significant art center which drew on the traditions of high professional
skill over centuries.
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