“Joy of All Joys” (Seraphim’s Tenderness) is a waist-length icon of the Mother of God without the Divine Christ. She is featured with her hands folded on the chest, inclined head and depressed eyes. The iconography has the Western European origin and appeared in Russia in the 17th century. The crown on the head of the Theotokos is inscribed with the words «радуйся невесто неневестная» (Rejoice, o bride unwedded).

The iconography became widespread as a home icon of Seraphim Sarovsky (1754 – 1833). According to his hagiography that was compiled based on the first-hand accounts of people who had closely knew the starets of Sarov, all his life went under the patronage of the Mother of God. He had been honored with several visions of the Mother of God, who healed him from deadly diseases. St. Seraphim had several icons of the Mother of God. One of them, particularly venerated, was his home icon Umilenie (Tenderness) that the starets himself called “Joy of All Joys.” St. Seraphim passed away praying before the icon on his knees.

The icon that St. Seraphim had in his monastic cell was painted on a canvas stretched over a cypress board. After St. Seraphim’s death the icon was passed to the nearby Diveevo convent that had been under St. Seraphim’s patronage. At Diveevo the icon was encased in a silver gilded riza. A special side-chapel in Her name – Umilenie of the Mother of God - was erected in the St. Trinity cathedral. Metropolitan Seraphim (Chichagov) compiled a special service to the venerated icon. A copy of the Sarov monastery was made specially for the opening of the saint’s relics. After his canonization in 1903, iconographic shops at the Diveevo Monastery and its mission in Peterhof began to produce copies of the icon.

The icon is commemorated on August 10 (July 28, 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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