“Upon thy right hand did stand the Queen” (the “Royal” Deesis) is a special version of the Deesis icon with Jesus Christ in the center, flanked by the Mother of God and John the Baptist. In this iconography, Jesus Christ is depicted as the King and the Great Pontiff. The Savior is represented seated on the throne, dressed in the royal vestments – a dalmatic and a tippet. Dalmatic is a garment worn by Byzantine emperors, made of expensive red fabric and decorated with gold and precious stones, reminiscent of the purple that was put on Jesus Christ as he was humiliated before being led to the Cavalry. On his head is a kamilavka crown with perpendulia (pendants). Over the royal vestments lies an omophorion - a long wide band with embroidered crosses worn by the clergy during a liturgy. The image of Christ is accompanied by inscriptions King of Kings, The Righteous Judge, The Awesome Judge, King of King and Lord of Lords. The Mother of God is also depicted wearing the royal vestments and a crown. She stands left to the Savior in a devotional pose. Sometimes she is portrayed holding a scroll. To the right of Her stands John the Baptist in a devotional pose with a scroll in his hand.

The composition is based on the Revelation of John the Theologian and Psalms 44 and 110. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns… And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:11–17). “The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchiz'edek” (Psalm: 110, 4). This iconography represents Jesus Christ as the Heavenly King and the Judge, with a focus being made on the Savior as also “the prince of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1: 5) and the high priest. The words of the 45th Psalm “Upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir” (Psalm 45:9) are interpreted as a prophesy about the Mother of God the Church, she is portrayed as the Queen beside the King – Jesus Christ.

Such compositions have appeared in Byzantine art since the 14th century. The earliest icon “Upon thy right…” in the Russian iconography dates to the late 14th century (located in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin). Since the 17th century, this composition has been sometimes used as the centerpiece of the Deesis row, such as an icon from the Deesis icon of the iconostasis in the Church of the Intercession in Fili, Moscow.

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.


1. Квливидзе Н. В. Деисус // Православная энциклопедия. Том XIV. М., 2006. С. 316–319.

2. Квливидзе Н. В. Иисус Христос «Великий Архиерей»// Православная энциклопедия. Том VII. М., 2004. С. 541-544.

3. Айналов Д. Новый иконографический образ Христа // SK. 1928. Т. 2. С. 19-24.

4. Кондаков Н. П. Иконографія Господа Бога и Спаса нашего Іисуса Христа. Лицевой иконописный подлинникъ. Томъ. I. СПб., Комитет попечительства о русской иконописи. 1905. Репринт. М., 2001.

5. Осташенко Е. Я. Об иконографическом типе иконы «Предста Царица» Успенского собора Московского Кремля // Древнерусское искусство. Проблемы и атрибуции [т. 10]. М.,1977. С. 175–187.

6. Иконы Успенского собора Московского Кремля. XI — начало XV века. Каталог. М., 2007. Кат. № 11. С. 128—133.

7. Интернет-портал «Древо: открытая православная энциклопедия»