The Deisis: St John the Baptist

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reference number: RI_178

19th century

tempera on wooden panel

36 x 30 cm

The icon forms the right panel of a three-piece Deisis (for the left and central panels see: The Deisis: Christ Pantocrator and The Deisis: The Mother of God). John the Baptist is represented half-length in a three-quarter turn towards Christ depicted in the central panel. the saint is dressed in a green himation over a camel-skin tunic. In his left hand, he holds an open scroll and the Christ Child in a chalice; with his right, he points at the Saviour. The scroll is inscribed with a passage from the Gospels: Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), bearing a direct allusion to Christ’s atoning sacrifice. The outer border is painted with family saints: the Angel Guardian on the left and St. Nicholas and St. Vasily on the right.


The composition of the Deisis (or Deesis, “supplication” in Greek) unites the three most important figures of the Christianity.  It features the Mother of God and Saint John standing on either side of Christ, symbolising their intercession on behalf of mankind. Byzantine in origin, the type became one of the most widespread in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. It can often be found in the upper centre of the altar screen, the iconostasis, serving the focal point of its composition. In Russia, the Deesis could be extended to employ other holy figures, such as archangels, apostles, Church Fathers, saints, martyrs.

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