Madonna and Child (Icon of Panagia Glykofilousa): Virgin of Tenderness

Cretan 17th century unknown

Egg tempera and gold leaf on panel

c.1600-1650
  • About the work
    Location
    Country: Greece
    City: Athens
    Place: British Embassy

    The Virgin is here presented in a shawl, trimmed with gold. The star on her forehead may be a reference to her Jewish name, Miriam, which translates literally as ‘star of the sea’. Christ is held tenderly but seems more like a small adult in classical drapery than a vulnerable baby. He nuzzles his mother’s face and looks up at her, while she gazes out towards the viewer, perhaps mirroring her role in prayers on behalf of others. Christ holds a scroll, a motif that appears in other icons of the Virgin of Tenderness, which may anticipate the episode when Christ read from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.

    Although the word ‘icon’ is used in modern Greek to mean simply ‘image’, it refers more specifically in its art historical context to this particular type of devotional image, associated with the Eastern Church. In its portrayal of a relationship between the two holy figures, this work is one of the more naturalistic of icon types; but truth to nature was not the intention of the artist. Painters of icons worked, and in many places continue to work, within a religious tradition in which icons serve a purpose which is connected to both spirituality and the practice of public worship.

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  • Details
    Title
    Madonna and Child (Icon of Panagia Glykofilousa): Virgin of Tenderness
    Date
    c.1600-1650
    Medium
    Egg tempera and gold leaf on panel
    Dimensions
    height: 78.50 cm, width: 58.50 cm
    Acquisition
    Presented by the Mayor of Athens, March 1941
    Provenance
    Presented to the British Embassy, Athens, by the Mayor of Athens, March 1941
    GAC number
    6638