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Athos Holy Mount

Portable Icons
2.81 The Lamentation
16th-17th c.
Docheiariou Monastery
Wood, egg tempera, 100 x 37 cm


The Original New Testament

Iconographically this icon is arranged horizontally in two zones, below is the Lamentation or 'Epitaphios Threnos', and above the bust of a winged angel, holding a closed book with hands covered by his himation. The gold ground has been restricted by a (later?) coat of dark brown paint in an attempt to emphasize both the distance and the connection between the two themes.

The Lamentation scene contains several figures, and the dramatic moment is rendered in the form that became fixed in the fourteenth century and was standardized in Cretan painting of the sixteenth century (Chatzidakis 1985, no. 21). The dead Christ lies on the tombstone, and the Virgin, seated left, embraces his head. Behind her stand the myrrh-bearers in various poses, gesticulating wildly. To the right John stoops to kiss Christ's left hand, Joseph appears to be holding the winding-sheet, and behind him Nicodemos throws up his hands in despair. In the background is a rocky landscape with a short section of the walls of Jerusalem, and the scene is completed by an oversized cross with the initials INRI across the top (Dionysios of Fourna 1909, p. 109).

Icons with a double theme were not uncommon in Byzantine or post-Byzantine art (Vassilaki 1990, p. 77). What is especially interesting here, however, is the presence of the angel above the Lamentation, an element found in the subject matter of thirteenth-fourteenth century embroidered Epitaphioi, in which the angels symbolize the participation of the heavens in the sorrow of men (Chatzidakis 1985, no. 21). The uncial, large M beside the angel's head was originally thought to represent the name of the archangel Michael. After cleaning, however, the letter Θ was revealed, which leads us to the symbols of the Evangelists, where the angel corresponds to Matthew (Ματθαίος). This subject was undoubtedly transferred here from the symbols of the Evangelists that appear on the arms of the large cross crowning the iconostasis after the fifteenth and especially during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Kazanaki-Lappa 1991, p. 223). These subjects originated in the West, and arrived in western Greece by way of Dalmatia (Exhibition XAE 1984-5, p. 36). This is confirmed by the Latin inscription on top of the cross at a time (late 16th-early 17th century) when the Greek inscription INBI was more usual (e.g. Chapel of St John the Theologian in the Monastery of Dionysiou; Millet 1927, pl. 214).

Bibliography: Unpublished.

Index of exhibits of Monastery of Docheiareiou
16th 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

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