The name “Korsunskaya” is derived from the Byzantine city of Khersones in the Crimea that was known in Rus as Korsun. The Korsun icons were commonly imported from Byzantium or painted in Rus in accordance with the Greek iconographic canons. We know about several Korsun icons. One of them was brought to Rus by Prince Vladimir after he had taken Korsun and converted to Christianity there. The icon had been long housed at Novgorod’s St. Sophia Cathedral before being transferred to the Assumption Cathedral at the Moscow Kremlin. Another Korsun icon, a copy of the wonderworking image from Efesus was, according to legend, presented by Emperor Michail II Komnenus to Princess Euphrosinia Polotskaya in 1173 and housed in a church she had founded near Polotsk. In 1239, Prince Alexander Nevsky married the daughter of Kipchack Prince Bronislaw. The young princess had taken the wonderworking icon to the wedding to the city of Toropets where the icon was located until 1917. The third Korsun icon was located at the Annunciation Cathedral in Novgorod.

The Korsunskaya icon most commonly belongs to the iconographic type known as Tenderness (Umilenie), with a shoulder-length or facial image of the Mother of God and the Infant Christ. Maria is shown holding with both arms the Infant Christ embracing Her by the neck. Christ is portrayed on the left side; with his right hands he holds on to the Mother of God’s omophorion, and with his left holds a folded scroll. The Theotokos’s little finger is bent, while her pointer finger is slightly lowered. There are different iconographic variants of the icon. For example, a 18th century icon from the Andrei Rublev Museum doesn’t show hands of the Mother of God and the Infant Child.

The Korsunski icons were most commonly executed as home images of the Mother of God, usually small in size. Shoulder-length icons of the Tenderness type were particularly widespread in Rus during the 15th – 16th centuries.

The Korsunskaya icon’s feast falls on October 22 (October 9, 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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