ICON OF THE VIRGIN ELEOUSA
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Icon of the Virgin Eleousa, tempera on panel covered with silver riza, 46x36cm
This icon of the Virgin and Child is of the traditional Eleousa type, also known as the Virgin of Tenderness or Mercy. The iconography of the Eleousa usually depicts the faces of the Virgin and Child touching affectionately, and the Child with an arm wrapped around the Virgin’s neck. In the featured icon, there are angels on banks of clouds at either end. One of the most famous Eleousa icons is the Virgin of Vladimir, which is one of Russia’s highly venerated icons, and one of the more recognised in the Western world.
This icon is encased within a riza, denoting it as an object of special veneration. At the top of the riza there are three stars, which symbolise the miracle of the Virgin’s threefold virginity of before, during, and after the birth of Christ. A riza is a decorative metal cover, usually silver, that only reveals the painted faces and areas of bare flesh. These covers, which were at times enamelled or jewel-encrusted, were also used for protection from human handling, as well as from the soot of candles and incense.