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Our Lady of Tikhvin
11 x 14 inches, 2005
egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board
photograph by Richard Anderson

Mary symbolizes the church, and each of its members.  She holds
the Christ Child, in a relationship of intimate tenderness and
intense mutual conversation.

In this icon, the young Jesus is
depicted as developing his
knowledge and wisdom in
discussion with his mother.
The Mother of God, the Theotokos (God-Bearer or God-Birther)
Our Lady, the Madonna, the Virgin

Icons of Mary are particularly treasured and beloved.  Next to her child Jesus,
Mary is considered the wisest, most beautiful, most loving, most spiritually
evolved of all humans.  She is cherished as a source of calm, shelter, serenity,
understanding, and mercy.

Mary is depicted as a high-ranking Byzantine lady, modestly wrapped in a
reddish-purple shawl of fine lightweight wool, usually with gold trim and fringes.  
The "Stars of Perfection" on her head and shoulders are symbolic of her purity.  
In Orthodox icons, her head is covered and her hair does not show.  Most often
she holds the Christ Child on her left side, close to her heart.
Our Lady of the Sign
The Virgin Orans (in Prayer)
The Great Panagia (All-Holy)
egg tempera and gold leaf  on panel, 8 x 10 inches, 2005
photograph by Richard Anderson

Mary is shown with her hands raised in prayer, sometimes
accompanied by 6-winged seraph and cherub.  On her chest,  the
image of Christ Emmanuel appears in a circle of heavenly light.  
When this image includes angels, it may be called "Great Panagia."

This icon metaphorically depicts the ability of any of us, with the
help of God, to bring forth something wonderful from within!
Mother of God Hodegetria,
"She Who Shows the Way"
egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board, 11 x 14 inches, 2003
photograph by Richard Anderson

Mary points to the Christ Child, who rests weightlessly in her arm, his
bright white and gold clothing contrasting with her darker robe.  In his
hand is a scroll, symbolizing his Hebrew heritage.  The Christ Child is
shown proportioned as an adult to emphasize his innate wisdom.

Icons of Mary are often decorated with ornate floral borders and even
with jewels, as befits the first and most beloved among the saints.
Mother of God Elousa, "Virgin of Tenderness"
egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board, 9.5 x 12.5 inches, 2000
photograph by David Elliott

Mary wears a dark red-violet outer garment with folds geometrically
arranged over blue-green cap and inner garment.  Three 8-pointed
“stars of perfection,” one above her brow and one on each shoulder,
are her identifying symbol.

The Christ Child is dressed in white and gold, indicating his purity
and glory.  His little hands and feet, exposed to our view, remind us
that they will one day be pierced.  The intimacy between mother and
child is palpable, as is a slight sense of foreboding.
Theotokos of the Passion, "Our Lady of Perpetual Help"
Left:  egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board, 11 x 14 inches, 2002
photograph by David Elliott

In the Theotokos of the Passion, an icon type known in the West as
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, our foreboding becomes explicit as two
angels approach to present the Christ Child with the instruments of
his death.  Although his attention is on the angels and their message,
he clasps his mother’s hand for reassurance.
Madonna and Child with Wild Roses
(Our Lady of the Sweet Kiss)
egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 7 x 9 inches, 2007
photograph by Richard Anderson

What a lively and energetic Christ Child!  He leaps into his mother's
arms, with his blanket billowing.   But Mary appears quite thoughtful
as she receives an affectionate embrace from her little bundle of joy.

Mary has often been compared to a rose.  Of course, she would not
have been familiar with our highly developed modern roses; so she
and her baby are pictured with simple 5-petaled wild roses.
Theotokos of the Passion, "Our Lady of Perpetual Help"
egg tempera and gold leaf on shaped sculpted board, 11 x 13 inches, 2005
photograph by Richard Anderson

This icon shows Mary wearing a separate head veil, which ripples
expressively down her back.

In many versions of this icon, the angels are pictured standing
quietly, but these small angels (used for both icons) are actively
zooming in with their message.
Our Lady of the Sign
egg tempera and gold leaf on shaped sculpted board, 11 x 12.5  inches, 2007
photograph by Richard Anderson

In this variation, Mary holds a white scarf, stretched like a canopy
above Christ Emmanuel.  Both of them appear against a deep
blue background, indicating that they are in heaven.

An arched board is especially appropriate for this highly
symmetrical icon, with its many circles and arcs, suggesting
infinity and eternity.
Back to Gallery
Betsy Porter
Art and Iconography
ICONS OF MARY
The Annunciation
egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board, 11 x  14 inches, 2008
painted under instruction by Dmitri Andrejev
Photograph by Richard Anderson

At this decisive moment for Mary's life and for our own relationship
with God, the
Archangel Gabriel suddenly appears in the Temple of
Jerusalem, bearing news that Mary can expect to become the
mother of Jesus.  Mary is so startled that she drops her spindle of
scarlet yarn.

Both Mary and Gabriel are pictured floating in front of the
architectural background, enhancing the other-worldly quality of
this event.

For more about this icon, go to the
Step by Step page and the
Landscape, Buildings, and Furniture page.
Our Lady of Vladimir
egg tempera, gold leaf, and shell gold on sculpted board, 11 x 14 inches, 2008
photograph by Richard Anderson

This icon type, showing the poignantly intimate relationship between
mother and child, is much beloved by Orthodox worshippers, and has
been often painted through the centuries.

To see how this icon was painted, go to the
Step by Step page.
Madonna and Child in a Garden
egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 9 x 13 inches, 2009

Mary and the Christ Child enjoy a peaceful evening walk in a flowering
garden.  Their intimate pose is similar to the Vladimir icon above.

Mary is often associated with a walled garden, symbolizing both her purity
and her fruitfulness.  This garden is enclosed by a hedge of flowers and
populated with flying and nesting birds, and with little animals, including a
mother opossum and her babies.

This piece was painted as a wedding gift.  The figures are based on a
historic fresco; but the garden with its symbolic flowers and animals was
inspired by medieval tapestries.
Left; 8 x 10 inches, 2010
Egg tempera, gold leaf, shell gold on shaped panel

Right; 13 x 17 inches, 2010
Egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board

Both 2010 versions of this beloved icon were
painted using the same pattern; simultaneously
in a Prosopon workshop with Dmitri Andrejev
as instructor.