The Dormition of the Mother of God

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reference number: RI_040

late 18th century

tempera on wooden panel

35 x 31.1 cm

Painted in the refined miniature style, the icon represents a scene of the Dormition of the Mother of God. The Virgin is shown lying on her deathbed surrounded by the grieving Apostles, assembled from the ends of the earth. In the centre behind her stands Christ circumscribed by a mandorla with a cherub on top and accompanied by two angels. On his left arm Christ holds a figure of a haloed infant – the representation of his Mother’s soul, while his right hand is stretched out towards the Virgin in benediction. On his both sides are four bishops: St.James the brother of the Lord, the first Bishop of Jerusalem, Timothy, bishop of Ephesus, Hierotheus and Dionysius the Areopagite, bishops of Athens. Seraphims and Cherubims in the upper part of the composition represent heavenly virtues. Below is the episode of the Jewish priest Jephonias (or Athonios), who had both hands cut off by the sword of an angel for having dared to touch the funeral couch of the Mother of God. The upper border bears the calligraphic inscription in Old Slavonic reading: ‘Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God’.


The Dormition of the Mother of God, also known as the Assumption in the Western tradition, is one of the most important feasts of the Virgin. The feast and its associated images had their sources in apocryphal stories and homilies, among which a sermon on the death of the Mother of God by Archbishop John of Thessaloniki (610-649) had the greatest influence on the iconography. According to the legend, the twelve apostles were present at the deathbed of the Mother of God, together with four early Christian writers James, Dionysius the Areopagite, Hierotheos and Timotheos of Ephesus.


The feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God is celebrated on  August 15th.

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