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THE VIRGIN OF TENDERNESS
42.8 x 34.4 x 1.8 cm
Art of Andreas Ritzos
Second half of 15th century
The Virgin is portrayed to the waist, turned in three-quarter pose towards the Christ-Child, whom she holds in her left hand while supporting his little left hand with her right, in an attitude of intercession. Christ’s cheek touches his mother’s face, while his right hand, holding a closed scroll, is lower down, at the level of his knees and next to his mother’s hand. The bare sole of his right foot with the loosened sandal projects from behind his left leg. The Virgin wears a deep red maphorion with gold border band and gold fringing on the shoulder. Christ wears a dark blue chiton cinched at the waist by a red sash, and an ochre himation. All the garments are embellished with meticulously drawn, dense, delicate gold striations. The flesh is modelled with firm brushstrokes in warm brown tones and light pink on the cheeks, while close white parallel highlights enhance the volumes over the whole surface. The ground is gold and the haloes with double incised outline and no incised decoration are damaged. Traces of a red cross are visible on Christ’s halo and ghosts of the red letters of the inscription IC XC are discernible on the gold ground. In the relationship of the two heads the iconographic type of the Virgin and Child in our icon follows the Byzantine model of the Glykophilousa or Eleousa.1 However, in the relationship of the hands and the pose of Christ’s crossed legs, with loosened sandal on one foot, it is linked with the model of the Virgin ‘Amolyntos’ or the Virgin of the Passion, as established by the fifteenth-century Cretan masters, in particular Andreas Ritzos.2 The new iconographic type that emerged from the combination of the two different models appears in a large series of Cretan icons, the most splendid example of which is the icon ascribed to Andreas Ritzos, at Trani in Italy (Fig. 25).3
The similarity of the iconographic type is evident as much in the attitudes and the facial type of the two figures, as in the relationship and position of the hands, and the pose of Christ’s feet with the loosened sandal. There is even correspondence in the colours. The deep blue of Christ’s chiton should be stressed in particular, since this is only very rarely encountered in the large series of late fifteenth-century icons with the same iconography but from a different workshop, such as the icon in the Canellopoulos Museum,4 where the execution seems cruder, without the gold striations on the fabrics, and even in two icons in the Byzantine Museum, T. 71 and T. 78.5 In representations with the same iconography it is more usual for Christ to wear a white chiton, as in the icon of the Virgin in the Eleousa Monastery on the Island in the lake of Ioannina,6 of the Glykophilousa in the Gouvernetou Monastery, Crete7 and icons in Patmos and Brescia,8 of slightly later date. The accomplished painting and expert technique of our icon display close affinity with works by Andreas Ritzos. The drawing is flawless, the brushstrokes are precise, forming the calligraphic facial features and the neat geometric planes on the drapery, while the colours are vivid and have the limpidity of enamel. The modelling of the flesh is strikingly similar to that on an icon in Florence, in which, in good photographs published recently, the technique of the tiny highlight flecks on the foundation is exactly the same,9 although their direction is different. The iconographic and stylistic affinities of our icon with icons by Andreas Ritzos permit its assignment to a workshop associated directly with this great Cretan painter.
CONDITION Manolis Chatzidakis, 1945: ‘Icon on a single panel of wood. In very good condition; only the gold ground has suffered in cleaning. Damage at the top has been restored with keromastic (bees’ wax and mastic). Fine gesso directly on the wood. Outlines and details lightly incised.”
The icon was conserved before 1945. There was a fine red border on the gold ground that had been overpainted sometime in the past in orangey-red. On the gold ground traces of a previous overpainting in red and blue. See also Appendix III.
1. E.g. see Grabar 1975; Tatić-Đurić, 1976; Thierry 1976.
2. Cf. M. Chatzidakis 1974, 180ff.
3. Icone di Puglia 1988, no. 44, fig. on p. 80, 139, with previous bibliography; for the type see also Baltoyanni 1994, 153 and for examples see Cat. no, 3, 80-83.
4. Baltoyanni 1994, no. 41, pls 69, 75 (34 x 45 cm), late 15th century.
5. Baltoyanni 1994, no. 42, pl. 86, late 15th century; no. 49, pl. 85, 16th century.
6. Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art 1986, no. 119.
7. Icons of Cretan Art 1993, no. 135 (M. Borboudakis).
8. Chatzidakis (1977) 1985, no. 45, pl. 34. N. Chatzidakis 1993, no. 40, 164-165; see also other examples Baltoyanni 1994, nos 39-49.
9. See N. Chatzidakis 1993, no. 6, 42-44, with previous bibliography; Baltoyanni 1994, pl. 15, figs