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Athos Holy Mount

Portable Icons
2.92 Sts Antony and Paul of Thebes
17th c., 2nd half
Xeropotamou Monastery
Wood, egg tempera, 21 x 24 cm


The Original New Testament

This unsual iconographical subject concerns St Antony's visit to St Paul, who was living in 'the most profound wilderness' in a cave. The incident is described in iconographical terms in Dionysios of Fourna' Painter's Manual (Hermeneia, pp. 188-9) and is rendered in two scenes: St Antony's journey on foot through the desert, guided by a lion; and his meeting with St Paul and their embrace.

Our icon shows only the second scene, with the two meeting, though not embracing. Antony in a monk's habit and Paul in a garment made of rushes sit in front of a cave and look towards the right, where a raven in a tree holds a piece of bread in its beak, in accordance with the description in the Hermeneia. Antony's lion guide is at his feet. A deer and a rabbit on the right are also part of the naturalistically rendered paradisal landscape which fills in the composition around the rock of the cave. On the gold ground in the upper part of the icon is the inscription: 'St Antony with Paul of Thebes'.

This is an interesting work both for the rarity of the iconographical subject and for its artistic quality, which couples the Byzantine tradition with western elements in the rendering of the landscape and the figures.

It is probably the work of a Cretan painter or a copy from a Cretan original in the second half of the seventeenth century.

Bibliography: Unpublished.

Index of exhibits of Monastery of Xeropotamou
17th 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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