SILVER REVETMENT WITH REPRESENTATION
OF THE LIFE-BEARING SOURCE
0.95 × 0.75 m
Silver, hammered, repoussé, chased
First half of 19th c.
The silver revetment of the Virgin Life-bearing Source (Zoodochos Pege), for merly in the Velimezis-Makris-Margaritis Collections, today in the Collection of Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation, is consistent with the usual Middle Byzantine dedicatory practice, particularly popular during the eighteenth-nineteenth century. Possibly it was used to cover an earlier or contemporary icon of the same subject from an icon-stand or the despotic series of an iconostasis, as surmised from its size.
The subject is linked with the monastery of the Virgin Zoodochos Pege in Constantinople, a famed pilgrim shrine of Christianity, due to the miracle-working holy water source (hagiasma) which trickles in a small underground church from Byzantinetimes to the present day. The renovation of the monastery in the eighteenth century gave impetus to the iconographic development of the representation of the Life-bearing Source. This image, which was elaborated by the fourteenth century, was enriched with the miraculous cure of patients and a host of additional elements. A multi-figured composition of highly narrative character, the revetment in the Collection reproduces the mature iconography of its original. The sick, bodily present, are expectant of their cure, the incorporeal angels praise the life-giving force of the Virgin, the ecclesiastical and secular primates, with their entourages, witnesses to the miracle and pilgrims, piously arrive at splendid celebration of the feast of the Virgin Life-bearing Source.
The narrative iconography of the work follows, with differentiations, representations that are widely disseminated in icons and prints of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the closest being the despotic icon of the Zoodochos Pege by Dionysios of Fourna, now in the church of the Transfiguration of Christ at Fourna in Evrytania (1737), as well as simplified versions of the engraving of the same subject by Christophoros Zefar (1744), such as the corresponding icon in the church of St Charalampos at Leonidion in Kynouria (mid-18th c.) and the Athonite print of the Lifebearing Source in the D. Papastratos Collection (mid-19th c.).
MA in the History of Byzantine Art
K. Makris Folklore Centre-Library of the University of Thessaly,
Volos Academy for Theological Studies