The Georgian icon of the Mother of God is a waist-length image of the Theotokos Hodegetria with the Child Christ upon Her arms, which became widespread in Novgorodian art during the 15th – 16th centuries. The iconography received its name - “Georgian” – much later, after the finding and the veneration of the wonderworking icon. According to legend, the Georgian icon of the Mother of God was taken out of Georgia in 1622 during the conquest of Georgia by Persian Shah Abbas I. In 1625 Stefan Lazarev, a representative of Russian merchant Grigory Lytkin, who was in Persia on trade business, acquired the icon and brought it back to Yaroslavl in 1629. When Grigory Lytkin saw the icon, he recalled about a vision that had told him to send the sanctity to the Chernogorsky (Krasnogorsky) monastery upon the Pinega (near Archangelsk) that was under the patronage of Russian merchants. He brought the icon to the monastery, built a church and donated to the monastery the church plates and a collection of books, most of which he himself had copied.

When the icon arrived in the monastery, it began to work wonders. In 1658, Tsar Alexei MIkhailovich and Patriarch Nikon set the feast celebrating the transfer of the holy icon to the monastery. Between 1920 and 1922, after the closure of the monastery, the icon vanished but was later returned to the church. The bishop of Archangelsk Leonty (Smirnov) reported in 1946 to the Moscow Patriarchy that the Georgian icon had been being carried during a cross procession in 1946 in Archangelsk. The further fate of the icon is still unknown.

The icon was brought to Moscow during the 1654 plague to help the suffering people receive healing from the icon. After a while, copies of the wonderworking icons appeared in Moscow, many of which performed miracles.

The surviving icons of the Georgian Theotokos are commonly big in size, most of them being large temple icons. In terms of iconography, the Georgian icon is a waist-length variant of the Theotokos Hogedetria type. The Mother of God is portrayed frontally, with Her head slightly turned and inclined towards the Child Christ. With her left hand she supports Christ, and with her left points to the Child as the true way of salvation. The characteristic feature of the icon is a specific pattern of the folds of the omophorion falling from the Mother of God’s head so that it leaves open the triangle of a blue chiton on Her breast and wide, symmetrically bent, color lapels of the underside. The Child’s head is slightly thrown back, his right blessing hand is raised vertically, with his left he holds a scroll. Another specific feature of the icon is a depiction of the Child’s right feet turned under his left feet with a bare sole to the outside. The earliest surviving example of this iconography is a 15th century icon of The Mother of God of Georgia and Jerusalem from the State Tretyakov Gallery.

The feast of the Georgian icon of the Mother of God falls on September 4 (August 22, O.S.).

Zhanna G. Belik,

Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.

Olga E. Savchenko,

research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.


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