Project Description


See the book


36.4 x 31 x 1.9 cm

Circa 1500

Τhe subject of the icon is the Restoration of the Holy Images at the end of the Iconoclasm in 843, celebrated on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The letters ΔΟΞΙΑ have survived from the inscription (ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΙΑ) top right. The representation, which is divided into two registers, includes all the iconographic features of the type, which is established in a considerable number of Postbyzantine works. There is extensive loss of the painted surface on the figures and the gold ground, due to previous conservation. In the upper register, at the centre, the large icon of the Virgin Hodegetria is placed on a stand draped with a red cloth embroidered in gold with the motif of the cross. It is held by two young, winged figures in long sticharion, red and deep reddish brown respectively, who appear from behind the pedestal.1 At the top of the icon a white cloth covers the edge of the frame and falls in tiny folds at the sides. On the left, Empress Theodora and King Michael are identified by relevant inscriptions: ΘΕΟΔΩΡΑ ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤΕΙΡΑ, ΜΙΧΑΗΛ ΠΙCTOC BACIΛΕΥC. They are clad in red imperial raiment with loros and crown, and hold a cross, now destroyed.2

On the right, Patriarch Methodios and Bishop Theodore, whose names can be read in the infrared photograph, where the letters ΘΟΔΙΟC, ΘΕΟ, are discernible. The names of the two monks who follow are now illegible. In the lower register, at the centre, two monks, probably Theophanis the Confessor and Theodore the Studite, hold an icon of Christ Pantocrator between them. Because the inscriptions naming the saints are effaced in this register, the proposed identification is based on the infrared photograph where some letters are discernible, as well as other representations of the scene with inscriptions, referred to below. Depicted at the far left is Saint Theodosia, holding a small icon of Christ painted on a red ground.3 Beside her stand three anonymous monks. The third, in mid-calf-length habit and analavos, can probably be identified as Saint Ioannikios. To the right of Theodore the Studite is a hierarch with the inscription APC, possibly Arsenios. Next to him stand three monks and a fourth appears behind them. The iconography of the subject derives from litany scenes of the icon of the Virgin, such as at Vlacherna in Arta, at Dečani and on an embroidered textile in Moscow,4 in which figures of worshippers are ranged around the icon of the Virgin. The earliest known exapmle of the Triumph of Orthodoxy is an icon in the British Museum, dated to around 1400 and attributed to a Constantinopolitan workshop (Fig. 31).5 Its resemblance to our icon in every iconographic detail is striking. Very few differences are observed in the gold embroidery on the cloth covering the pedestal of the icon of the Virgin and in the cruciform motifs on the sakkos of Patriarch Methodius and the phailonion of the bishop in the lower register. The resemblance is even more remarkable because it extends to the dimensions of the wooden panels, which are virtually the same (the icon in the British Museum is 39 x 31 em). The iconographic similarities point if not to the copying of one icon from the other at least to the use of a common anthivolon (working drawing). Stylistically the two works differ, however, and the rendering of the facial features and the details of the decoration of the vestments is simpler in our icon. Even so, the range of colours is common to both; dominant are the brownish grey tones of the monks’ habits and the bright red of the imperial raiment, the angels’ garments and the cloth draped on the stand of the icon of the Virgin. The icon of the Virgin is identical in both representations, rendering the Mother of God holding her Child, in the type of the frontal Hodegetria with Christ, also frontal, outstretching his right hand in blessing; the iconography was established in fifteenth-century Cretan painting by icons such as the Hodegetria by Andreas Pavias, now in Rome.6 This element and some other traits, such as the rinceaux bands on the cloth over the stand of the icon of the Virgin and on the vestments of the hierarchs in the British Museum icon, which appear as decorative motifs on the bier in fifteenth-century icons of the Dormition of the Virgin, permit the icon’s attribution to an early fifteenth-century Cretan workshop. The stylistic difference between the two icons is due to different workshops and possibly to a time interval too.

The Restoration of the Icons is a subject encountered in both icons and wall- paintings of the sixteenth century. Among the best examples from the first half of the century are the Benaki Museum icon that bore the forged signature of Emmanuel Tzanfournaris,7 a composition including more figures, and the authentic icon by Emmanuel Tzanfournaris (1570/1575-c. 1631), in the Greek Institute, Venice.8 It also occurs on two icons of the second half of the sixteenth century in the Tsakyroglou Collection, although the rendering is different and simpler.9 To these examples of more popular art should be added an eighteenth-century Melchite icon by the painter Hanna.10

The subject is widespread in the wall-paintings of Mount Athos too, where Theophanis, in the Lavra Monastery (1535) and the Monastery of Stavronikita (1545-1546),11 reverses the figures represented in each of the two registers, while later, in the Docheiariou Monastery (1658), the scene is limited to just one register.12 It is clear that the British Museum icon remains the sole one closely related to ours. The similarity in iconography hints at the coexistence of the two painters in the same place and offers a possible explanation of the fact that their iconographic types are identical. Unfortunately the bad condition of our icon precludes further observations on its style, which could secure a more precise dating. For all the above reasons its attribution to a conservative Cretan workshop, reproducing fifteenth-century models at the end of that century or slightly later, seems quite possible.

CONDITION Damage to the painted surface, particularly the white highlights and details on the garments, is due to previous conservation of the icon.


1. According to N. Patterson-Sevcenko 1991, 48, these are idealized figures of the members of the brotherhood that honoured the icon.
2. For representations of Theodora see Katselaki 1995, 129-138.
3. For the iconography of the saint see Galavaris 1994, 313ff., fig. 2.
4. N. Patterson-Sevéenko 1995, 47ff., figs 1, 2, 3.
5. Byzantium 1994, 129-131, no. 140 (R. Cormack).
6. Hagedorn 1977, 209ff., pls 11, 12a, 13a. N. Chatzidakis 1993, 160, no. 39.
7. Xyngopoulos 1951, 9-10, no. 6, pl. 6; see recently A. Drandaki 1996, 183.
8. Chatzidakis 1962, 96, no. 63, pl. 48.
9. Vasilaki-Karakatsani 1980, nos 74, 75, p. 70.
10. Icones grecques, melkites, russes 1993, 262-263, no. 84.
11. Millet 1927, pl. 131.2. Chatzidakis 1986, fig. 123.
12. Millet 1927, pl. 228.1; see also wall-painting in Hopovo (1608), TatićĐurić, 1995, 557, fig. 14.

The Triumph of Orthodoxy.

Εgg tempera on wood. c. 1500.

36.4 x 31 x 1.9 cm

(donation no. 5)

Nano Chatzidakis, Icons. The Velimezis Collection, publication of the Benaki Museum, Athens 1997, cat. no. 5, page 86.