NOTE: 4" matted icons are on backorder until October 1.
Round rather than the usual rectangle, the shape of this icon recalls the endless love between God and humanity. God seen in the human form of the Child Jesus, and humanity, represented by the Virgin Mary. Mother and Child wear expressions of deepest compassion and tenderness as they contemplate the process of redemption that they have begun together. Because it became too expensive to produce them, we have added a gold border to the formerly round shape of this design to make it rectangular for mounting on wood or matting. The greeting cards and holy cards still have a white border.
Wood-mounted icons are on 3/4" thick solid hardwood, typically poplar, with a tee-slot milled in the back for easy hanging on the wall. (The 4" size is 1/2" thick.) The wood is stained a traditional icon red, in keeping with Byzantine tradition. (Ancient icon board edges were frequently coated with red bole, a form of clay).
Double-matted prints use an inner mat of navy blue with a 1/4" reveal and an off-white outer mat that will blend with any decor.
Each wood-mounted or matted icon comes with a descriptive pamphlet explaining the symbolism and history of the image.
Our icon designs are also available in sanctuary-size enlargements up to 38 inches wide. The latest technology enables enlargement without sacrificing quality. Call 800-889-0105 for pricing and ordering.
Icons of Mary and the Christ Child have a long and rich tradition in iconographic art. According to ancient legend, the first such image was painted by Luke with Mary herself as a model. Iconographic tradition developed over sixteen centuries now includes more than 150 named versions. These many versions may be classified into groups based on the degree of relationship or affection shown between mother and child. The earliest ones show Jesus enthroned on Mary’s arm, both facing the viewer, with no human affection whatsoever (Hodigitria types). Icons from the late Russian period show very great affection being expressed in both directions (Umilenie or Glykophilousa types). This one we have reproduced for you is in between, an Eleusa or Tenderness type, first made popular in 11th century Byzantium. The most famous example of this type is Our Lady of Vladimir, as well-known in the east as DaVinci’s Mona Lisa is known in the west. While Our Mother of Compassion is clearly related to ancient Eleusa icons, it is a new composition by Sister Mary Charles.
Theology and Symbolism
These icons are much more than portraits of a mother and her child. They are the principle images of the Incarnation (God become man), and of the Church, representing communion of the Divine (the Child/Word of God) and the human (Mary). In this composition of Our Mother of Compassion, Jesus and His mother embrace each other but their facial expressions convey solemn compassion for one another rather than affection. Their eyes look toward infinity or perhaps within as they together contemplate the awesome process of redemption which they have begun together.
The child Jesus is dressed in a robe of white, traditionally the color of purity, with a sash of green, blue, and gold. Green is for life–His humanity, blue is for heaven–His divinity, and gold is for royalty–His dominion over all the universe. His feet are bare, symbolic of his humble station. His hair has flowing curls, reminding us of the endless time He existed before His human birth.
In western paintings of Mary, she is usually shown robed in blue. But red or deep burgundy is the most common color in icons. She wears a blue dress or chiton, covered by a red combination veil and cloak called in Greek a homophorion. Her clothing is richly trimmed in gold, befitting her status as Queen of Heaven. The gold stars we see on her head and shoulders (one concealed by the Babe) are symbols of her perpetual virginity; before, during, and after Christ’s birth.
Mary holds the holy Babe, but clearly is not physically burdened by His weight. It is as though He were light as a feather! The burden visible in her face is of the heart. Perhaps she recalls the words of Simeon, "...and a sword will pierce your own soul too." (Luke 2:35) Both heads are surrounded by halos of gold leaf. Because it reflects light so differently from pigment, gold leaf is used in iconography to represent Divine light. The halos signify the Divine light of God made visible to humanity through the life of this holy mother and her Child.