76 x 47 in   193 x 120 cm
Egg Tempera on Wood
12th-13th century
State Tretiyakov Gallery - Moscow

"Panaghia" means "All-Holy" in Greek. This huge ikon shows the Virgin with her hands outstretched in prayer. In the center of her breast is a medallion with Christ blessing. Above the hands of the Virgin are two additional medallions with Archangels holding symbols of power in one hand with the other in adoration. The Virgin stands on a bright red carpet, and her robes are painted in Imperial purple and blue with wide gold highlights.

The Great Panaghia is based on the "Blacherniotissa" ikon of the Theotokos which depicted a famous miracle in medieval Constantinople where Mary appeared to the congregation of a basilica in the Byzantine capital. This basilica was called Blachernae and it was located very close to a palace of the Byzantine Emperors un the same quarter. During the Comnenian Dynasty the Emperors spent a great deal of time in this palace near the walls of the city and the dynasty became closely associated with the Blachernae Virgin.

Ikons showing the Virgin frontally with both arms extended in prayer came to be associated with the Imperial throne during thjis period and this tradition was transferred to Russia. This ikon was was painted in Yaroslav and came to be associated with Russian princes and was considered their patron.

Photo credit: Deutsche Fotothek, Dresden

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