Project Description


See the Book


28.5 x 23 x 1.7 cm

Circa 1600

Christ is depicted to the waist, frontal, in the vestments of the High Priest. He blesses with his right hand, while holding an open gospel book with his left; from the surviving letters there was evidently an inscription on the left page: ‘My kingdom is not of this world’ (John 18:36) and on the right:‘Take, eat; this is my body … which is broken for many for the remission of sins’ (Matthew 26:26). Next to Christ’s right shoulder are traces of an inscription in red capitals: BACIΛEYC TΩN BACIΛEYONTΩN (King of Kings) and next to his left, traces of another inscription: KAΙ MEΓAC APXIEPEYC (and Great High Priest).

Christ’s rose sticharion is embellished with bejewelled maniples. His blue sakkos has a gold border band, studded with precious stones. The paler blue omophorion, with white illumined planes, is decorated with gold crosses. On the head is a semicircular ochre mitre also encrusted with gems. The waist-length representation of Christ most probably derives from the full-bodied figure of Christ enthroned, in similar dress and pose, on an icon by Michael Damaskenos in Corfu.1

The earliest and most significant prototype of Christ Great High Priest in half-figure appears on the despotic icon in Patmos, which Chatzidakis attributes to the workshop of Andreas Ritzos.2 Another important example is an icon from the same workshop in the Gonia Monastery, Crete.3 The same iconographic type of Christ was reproduced by great painters of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, such as Emmanuel Lambardos4 and Ieremias Palladas in an icon akin to ours, now in Russia,5 while the type is disseminated in a large number of Cretan icons.6 The theme’s origin in more complex representations of the Palaeologan era, known from examples in Lesnovo and the Perivleptos at Mystras, has been noted in all the related studies.7

The Velimezis icon is painted in radiant colours with harmonious combinations of blue and pale rose on the sacerdotal vestments, the outlines are firm and the flesh is modelled with tiny parallel white highlights on the dark brown foundation. For these reasons it is assigned to a milieu of conservative early-seventeenth century painters, such as Emmanuel Lambardos and Ieremias Palladas, who cleave faithfully to the tradition of the fifteenth-century Cretan masters.

CONDITION Quite good.


1. Vocotopoulos 1990, no. 22, 44-45, fig. 23.
2. Chatzidakis (1977) 1985, no. 15, 66-67, pls 19, 83.
3. Icons from the Prefecture of Chania, 1975, no. 7, fig. 34.
4. Vocotopoulos 1990, nos 50, 67, pp. 76, 97-98, figs 169, 177; the last icon was formerly attributed
to Emmanuel Tzanes.
5. Icons of Cretan Art 1993, no. 57, 412 (1. Kyzlasova).
6. Xyngopoulos 1936, no. 19, 33, pl. 15B. Chatzidakis (1977) 1985, no. 102, 139-142, pls 152-153. Sotheby’s 1988, nos 413, 414, art of Emmanuel Lambardos; see also Vocotopoulos 1990, 76.
7. Chatzidakis (1977) 1985, 66-67. Papamastorakis 1994, 67-76.

Christ Great High Priest.

Egg tempera on wood. c. 1600.

28.8 x 23 x 1.7 cm

(donation no. 15)

Nano Chatzidakis, Icons. The Velimezis Collection, publication of the Benaki Museum, Athens 1997, cat. no. 20, page 236.