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The icon painted on four sides, each side with egg tempera, gesso and gold leaf on wood, the two circular panels set in a hinged silver border, along with hinged silver carrying case, finely repousséd with the images of Saint George and the Crucifixion on the respective sides, marked with unknown hallmarks on each side; diameter: 10.5 cm (4 in.)
Acquired through inheritance by the descendants of Alexander Ivanovich Nelidov (1835-1910), Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Italy and France Collection of the Nelidov family to the present day.
The first panel shows the Virgin and Child in half-length (in a typology known as the Virgin of Kykkos, a miracle-working icon from Cyprus) - and is flanked by the Prophets Isaiah and David. On the left valve, we have saints Nicholas; Charalambos; and Athanasius; a Guardian Angel; and saints George and Demetrius. On the right valve, saints Peter; John the Baptist; Paul; John the Theologian; Basil the Great; John Chrysostom; Gregory the Theologian; and John the Merciful. The last panel shows the nine orders of angels, each group floating on clouds beneath the Trinity: Top: New Testament Trinity. Second row: Thrones; Cherubim; and Seraphim. Third row: Virtues; Dominions; and Powers. Third row: Angels; Archangels; and Principalities. This follows the main order set forth by Pseudo-Dionysius, most likely in the 5th century.
The Virgin of Kykkos is an iconographic type that comes from the well-known Kykkos Monastery in Cyprus. It shows the Virgin tenderly holding Christ as he, with somewhat animated bodily movements, places his hand within her right hand. Above the main image in the current version, two angels crown the Virgin as the Queen of Heaven.
Panagharia are small containers decorated with iconic scenes. They were formulated in Byzantine monastic practices for liturgical purposes regarding the Virgin’s ‘portion’ of the holy communion, as Manolis Chatzidakis highlights: ‘The panagharia were used to contain the “Virgin’s share” of the holy bread.’ Smyrnakis adds that the panagharia ‘were used in elevating the bread of the Virgin’, after which the priest would carry the object around while prayers were chanted to the Virgin. Hence the word panaghia is one of the titles of Mary and can be translated from the Greek as ‘All-Holy’. A post-Byzantine version with images tentatively attributed to Nicholas Ritzos can be seen on Patmos (fig. a).
The objects were later adapted, however, from having a monastic and liturgical function to acquiring a more ecclesial and decorative one:
Initially, panaghiaria were liturgical articles used in monastic services in honour of the Mother of God, the Panaghia; in post-Byzantine times they became hieratic pectorals.
The current version has a baroque splendour characteristic of 18th and 19th century Greek icons.