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The Virgin is shown in half-length wearing a maphorion with decorative patterns including stars. She is gazing with tenderness at the infant Christ who is shown standing in a chiton and himation and blessing the viewer with his right hand. His left hand is hidden under his himation.
The Virgin of Kazan iconography is linked with the iconographic type known as the Hodegetria. It is based on the story of its ‘miraculous appearance’ on July 8th/21st 1579. Vladimir Lossky explains the nature of such icons: ‘When one speaks of the “apparition” of an icon, this term, current in old Russian chronicles and hagiographies, means a miraculous event by which an icon, hitherto unknown, becomes notable as a new source of the manifestations of grace.’ In regard to the Kazan typology, Lossky continues:
Having appeared several times in succession in the dreams of a young girl, the Mother of God commanded her to point out to the ecclesiastical and secular powers the place where her miraculous icon was to be found, buried in the earth. The clergy and the dignitaries refused to believe the message of the visionary. Finally, the young girl and her mother none the less exhumed the icon… the newly appeared icon of the Mother of God became notable through several miracles.
The iconography became especially popular in Russia from the second half of the 17th century onward.
The current version correlates with these early prototypes (e.g. see fig. a for an early example), in terms of both composition and style – indicating that our icon was created in the 17th century.