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HEAD OF THE VIRGIN
45 x 34.7 x 1.7 cm
The head of the Virgin is depicted to just below the neck, turned in three-quarter pose and bowed slightly. She wears a deep red maphorion with gold border band and a deep blue dress with similar band round the neck. The headband is the same dark blue. The flesh is modelled in brownish tones forming dark shadows surrounding the face around the mouth, down the nose and on the eyelids. The cheeks, the forehead, the bridge and axis of the nose, and the chin are emphasized by a small plane of tiny, fine parallel white lines. The facial features are defined by firm brushstrokes with great precision, revealing the hand of a most accomplished painter.
The Head is projected against the gold ground of the icon, leaving a thin gold border at the sides and below as a frame. On the gold band bottom right are traces of the letters: YEIP EMANOY. If the signature is genuine, which is equivocal, the name could be Emmanuel.
The icon with the Head of the Virgin presumably belongs to a composition of Deesis, with Christ as the central figure,1 a subject established by Emmanuel Lambardos.2 There are analogous icons with the Head of the Virgin in the Byzantine Museum, Athens (no T. 156), ina private collection in London and in the
Greek Institute, Venice,3 while one of the best examples is in Padua.4
Our icon, with its flawless technique, probably comes from the same workshop as those in the Byzantine Museum and the London collection, and also dates from the same period, around 1600.
CONDITION Very good with slight damage to the red band in the lower section, where traces of the
letters of some inscription are visible.
1. Cf. Cat. no. 21, 298,
2. Two painters of this name are known, mentioned 1587-1631 and 1632-1644, see Kazanaki-Lappa 1981, 216-217, nos 36-37; Vocotopoulos 1990, 75, 148; N. Chatzidakis 1993, 176.
3. Th. Chatzidakis 1982, no, 30. Chatzidakis 1962, 112, no. 89.
4. N. Chatzidakis 1993, 30-31, no. 2; the catalogue entry was writtten before conservation of the icon for exhibition in the Museo Correr, Venice: after conservation my proposed date should be shifted to a much later period and the icon most probably attributed to Emmanuel Lambardos.