The Mother of God of Smolensk

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reference number: RI_075

circa 1800

tempera on wooden panel

44.7 x 35 cm

Painted in the sixteenth-century style, the icon shows a sternly looking Virgin in a dark burgundy embroidered garment and Christ Child wearing a bright red tunic highlighted with gold. The figures are painted over a light green background with a darker moss green border. The Mother of God is shown half-length, with her left hand supporting Christ and pointing to him with her right hand. The Christ Child in her arm raises his right hand in a benediction while holding a scroll in his left.


The Mother of God of Smolensk is closely associated with a Greek icon of the Hodegetria (She who shows the Way in Greek), the two names are often used interchangeably. According to a legend, the icon was given this name after restoring sight to two blind men. Another legend relates that the icon was a talisman for the Greek emperors during their military campaigns. And the third legend states that originally the icon was in a church near a port where departing sailors used to pray before the icon asking the Mother of God to lead the way so they didn’t get lost in the seas. Greek Tsar Konstantin Monomakh blessed his daughter Anna with this icon when she married Russian prince Vsevolod, later Anna bequeathed the icon to her son Vladimir who installed it in 1097 in the Smolensk cathedral. 

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