2.84 The Seven Maccabees
Wood, egg tempera, 31 x 24.2 cm
An icon of very unusual iconography and content. The Holy Maccabees, known mainly from their representation in illuminated manuscripts (Galavaris 1969, p. 109) are portrayed here in two columns created by the busts of the saints in medallions. Between these two columns, in smaller circles, is the icon's inscription: 'The Holy Seven Maccabees', and next to each bust is the saint's name. The gold background between the medallions is covered by floral ornamentation.
The names of the saints correspond to those in the third list in the Painter's Manual (Dionysios of Fourna 1909, pp. 161, 272, 297). Both the seven young saints and the elder Eleazar hold rolled-up scrolls rather than martyr's crosses, as is usual in some cases. The figures are rendered in various poses and with different inclinations of the head, robed in tunic and cloak fastened across the breast, and wear martyr's crowns on their heads.
The painter was clearly a capable draughtsman with a feel for colour, as can be seen both in the figures' clothing and in the floral decoration of the background. Without doubt the artist was well-versed in manuscript art, from which he drew both the subject and the decoration between the medallions (Hutter 1977, pp. 163, 178. Galavaris 1969, pls. XXXVII, LIV).