The Temple Gallery
(The following is an extract from the catalogue 'MASTERPIECES OF EARLY CHRISTIAN ART AND ICONS')
5. The Entry into Jerusalem
Post-Byzantine - Cretan, circa 1475
Tempera and gesso on wood
Panel: without frame 32.2 x 45.5 x 1.5 cm; with frame 58.5 x 71 cm
Temple Gallery, 1968; private collection
The icon, according to the conservator Stavros Michalarias who examined it in 1968, bears on its reverse a label which indicates that it had been restored in 1963. The painting is on a single panel, which at first was thicker than it is at the present, and has been provided with a hardboard support. There are transverse cracks, two of which run along the icon. The original paint was applied as a thin film. There are some later varnishes and retouching. The unbalanced cleaning of the icon resulted in the removal of original paint which probably explains the abrasion of the gold paint of the stars, aureole, Jesus' halo and the inscription. [see footnote 1] The sky, the landscape, the children and the city have not been retouched and the above mentioned restorations do not affect the iconography or style of the icon.
The subject of this icon, which is the Entry into Jerusalem, is written in gold capital letters on each side of the centrally placed tree. This scene is mentioned in all four Gospels (Matthew: 21, 1-9; Mark: 11, 1-10; Luke: 19, 29-38; John 12:12-15), and it is celebrated by the Orthodox Church on the Sunday before Easter - 'Palm Sunday'. The event marks the beginning of Christ's Passion.
The Entry into Jerusalem is a traditional subject in Byzantine art, found already in the sixth century in the Rossano Gospels. In the Middle Byzantine period the subject was popularised in various media and it acquired the basic iconography which would evolve in the following centuries. [see footnote 2] The icon of the Temple Gallery is exceptional in the extraordinary complexity of the representation and its attention to all kinds of detail.
The full article, by Maria Paphiti, can be read in the published catalogue 'MASTERPIECES OF EARLY CHRISTIAN ART AND ICONS'.