Reference address :

ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Athos Holy Mount

Portable Icons
2.21 Christ Pantokrator (Great Deesis)
14th c., 3rd quarter
Vatopedi Monastery
Wood, egg tempera, 138 x 60 cm


The Original New Testament

This icon of Christ belongs to a group of five icons, which, together with another six that no longer survive, made up the Great Deesis group on the iconostasis in the katholikon of Vatopedi Monastery in the third quarter of the fourteenth century (Tsigaridas 1996 (2), pp. 359-64). Of the central figures, only the icons of Christ Pantokrator and John the Baptist survive; all that remains of the icon of the Virgin is two pieces of wood bearing traces of the paint film. The archangel Gabriel also survives, who, with the now lost archangel Michael, flanked the central Deesis theme. The group was completed by the Apostles Peter and Paul and the four Evangelists, of whom only St John (no. 2.24) and St Luke survive.

Of the surviving Great Deesis icons, which have not retained their original dimensions, four are displayed in the exhibition: Christ Pantokrator, the archangel Gabriel (no. 2.23), St John the Baptist (no. 2.22), and St John the Theologian (no. 2.24).

The icon of Christ Pantokrator has not come down to us intact: pieces are missing from the right and left sides, though part of the right-hand side, with the integral frame, has been found recently. The central icon in the whole Great Deesis composition, it depicts a bust of Christ holding a closed, richly bound Gospel, his right hand raised in blessing.

The Vatopedi Christ reproduces an iconographical type that was widespread in Byzantine and post-Byzantine art. Although some of the paint has gone from the hair and the facial shading, the figure is nonetheless impressive, particularly in respect of the sharp chiaroscuro on the face, with which the painter accentuates the expression.

With its frowning air, intense gaze, and linear highlighting in the form of limited radial striations beneath the eyes and a luminous sheen on the brow, this Christ type is also seen in a number of anticlassical works of the second half of the fourteenth century, such as the wall painting of Christ Pantokrator in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Pec in mediaeval Serbia (Djuric - Zirkovic - Korac 1990, fig. 135), the icon of Christ Pantokrator from the Church of Hagia Sophia, Thessaloniki (Holy Image, Holy Space 1988, fig. 30), and the icon of Christ Zoodotes (the Giver of Life), the work of Metropolitan John in 1393/4 (Weitzmann et al. 1966, fig. 189), now in Skopje but originally from Zrze Monastery outside Prilep. The Vatopedi Christ differs from the Thessaloniki and Zrze icons in the delicate modelling of the hands, the long, slender fingers, and the softer linear highlighting on the face. Coupled with the icon's physiognomical and stylistic similarity to the wall painting of Christ Pantokrator at Pec, dated to about 1350, these features suggest a dating for the Vatopedi icon in or shortly after the mid-fourteenth century.

Bibliography: Tsigaridas 1996 (1), pp. 382-3, fig. 323. Tsigaridas 1996 (2), p. 360, figs. 8-9.

Index of exhibits of Monastery of Vatopedi
14th century

The Authentic Greek New Testament Bilingual New Testament I

Icon of the Mother of God and New Testament Reader Promote Greek Learning
Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Learned Freeware


Reference address :