Our Mother of Consolation
The Origins of This Image
Icons of Mary and the Christ Child have a long and rich tradition in the Eastern churches. According to ancient legend, the first one was painted by Luke with Mary herself as a model. These icons may be classified into groups based on the degree of relationship or affection between mother and child that is shown to us. 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. Jesus raises His hand in benediction and Mary grasps His arm and pulls His tiny hand to her face. For His part, Jesus appears not to notice.
This beautiful contemporary icon is based on an original from the Vatopedi Monastery in Greece. On the fringe of the Aegean Sea, a narrow, rocky peninsula covered with wild, dense vegetation juts from the sea coast. It is only five kilometers wide by fifteen long. This is Mount Athos, the Holy Mountain, home to twenty Greek Orthodox monasteries including Vatopedi. Religious hermits first came to this place in the 7th century A.D., displaced from points further east by growing Islamic control. Vatopedi was founded in 972 and owes its name to the surrounding terrain (vatos = shrub, pedion = plain or ground). The original "Virgin of Vatopedi" or "Mother of Consolation" is of anonymous artistry and uncertain origin but probably dates from the 12th century.
Theology and Symbolism
Icons of this type are much more than portraits of mother and 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). The young Jesus is turned partly toward His mother and partly toward us. His right hand is raised in a gesture of blessing while his left holds a scroll, symbolic of the Sacred Word of God. Mary provides a comfortable throne for Him with her left hand. Mary’s eyes are very large, her nose noble and long, her mouth beautifully shaped. Mary is gazing at infinity or gazing within, with an expression of sadness, as if recalling Simeon’s words, "...and a sword will pierce your own soul too." (Luke 2:35)
The overall composition has the form of a triangle inscribed in a rectangle. This is intended to represent the mystery of the Trinity coming to reside in the world. Gold leaf is used on Mary’s halo and that of Jesus to express unearthly light, the divine origin of sanctity. Christ’s halo is inscribed with a cross and the Greek letters omicron, omega, nu, spelling "HO ON." In English, this becomes "Who Am," the name used for God in Exodus 3:14. Greek letters are also inscribed on the background. "ICXC" is an abbreviation for Jesus Christ, Iesous Khristos. "MPØY" is an abbreviation for Mother of God, Meter Theou.
Jesus is dressed as an adult, not as a baby. He wears a tunic and a cloak, called a hymation. The rich cloak is symbolic of His divine royalty, in sharp contrast to His bare feet symbolizing poverty and humanity. Mary wears a homophorion or cloak over her dress. It is of a deep blue shade that is the most common color used for her cloak in western art. A burgundy red would be seen more often in Russian iconography. Her homophorion is adorned with three stars on the head and shoulders (one is hidden by the child). These are symbolic of Mary’s perpetual virginity; before, during, and after her Son’s birth.
Our icon designs are offered in several formats. Typically we print in four sizes; 4", 6", 8", and 10" on the short dimension. Available sizes and formats for each design are listed at the bottom of the product page.
Icon Reproductions on Wood:
Our icons are available mounted on wood in the traditional manner. The wood is 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). Each icon comes with a descriptive folder explaining the symbolism and history of the image.
We also provide icon prints mounted on heavy cardboard and covered with a double mat. The inner mat is navy blue with a 1/4" reveal. The outer mat is an off-white to blend with any decor. The matted prints are sized to fit standard frames, 8" x 10", 11" x 14", or 16" x 20" depending on the print size. Descriptive folder included.
Most of our designs are now available in our popular greeting card format. These are single-fold cards printed on heavy stock, 4.38" x 5.93". The cards are blank inside for your own message or custom imprint and have an explanation of the history and symbolism of the icon printed on the back. They are available singly or in packages of ten, envelopes included.
Most designs are available in holy card form. These are a convenient size for use as gifts or bookmarks, 3 1/8" x 4 5/8" on heavy cream-colored paper. The backs are blank except for a faint colophon at the bottom, leaving plenty of room for custom imprinting with your own message. These holy cards are sold in packages of 25.
Icons can be a beautiful way to enhance a worship space. All of our icons are available as extra large prints, up to 38 inches wide. The latest technology enables enlargement without sacrificing quality. Call 800-889-0105 for pricing and ordering.
This site last updated: Monday, March 27, 2017