Christ Pantocrator

Mstera School
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reference number: RI_076

early 20th century

tempera on wooden panel

17.5 х 14.7 cm

A waist-length depiction of Christ Pantokrator with an open Gospel in His left hand and the right hand raised in a blessing gesture is one of the founding, canonical bases of His iconography; He is shown both as the King of Heaven and the future Judge of the World. The traditional inscription on the Gospel emphasizes the New Covenant between mankind and God: “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27-28).


The elongated figure of Christ with slender shoulders, strands of hair falling on the left side of His back, detailed cascades of His himation all date back to 17th century Moscow iconography, who was seen as the ideal for Old Believer masters. Not only did they imitate the medieval artwork of the Russian capital, but they also made tracings of old icons, that were copied and referenced to by iconographers.  Such icons – all of small size – were painted for household use and won great popularity among the Old Believers, who knew and cherished the old painting styles. The two-finger blessing gesture and the Gospel text all refer to the old dogmatic tradition.


Stylistic traits of the icon – with its subtle colour scheme, olive background, detailed inscriptions and Gospel text (with the bright capital letter), the overall refined quality and mastery of the slightly dark face of the Savior (bereft of any modelling) – all point to the piece’s creation in one of the Old Believer workshops in Mstyora, renowned for their “ancient style” painting. The icon demonstrates the so-called “academic stylization”, which comes into its own with the rise of academic restoration of iconography at the start of the 20th century.

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