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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.3 Icon with the Transfiguration
13th c., 2nd half
Xenophontos Monastery
Light green steatite
Revetment: silver gilt, with pearls and semiprecious stones
18.5 x 15 x 3 cm


The Original New Testament

This icon has been set into a wooden panel trimmed with gold-embroidered velvet; the pearl-encrusted revetment is probably of Russian origin. The haloes still bear traces of gilding.

The composition of the scene of the Transfiguration is somewhat austere: the focus is on the central figure of Christ, flanked by Moses, on the left, and Elijah, with the figures of the Apostles Peter, John and James, below, rendered in smaller scale. The position of the apostles against both the rocks which constitute the sole indication of landscape and the area occupied by the central figures of Christ and the Prophets suggests an attempt to differentiate planes and to give the scene a certain depth. The same intent is evident in the use of at least two different depths in the carving: the haloes and the mandorla framing the figure of Christ are executed in low relief, as are the rocks, while a higher relief is used for the figures themselves. The drapery underlines the volume of the bodies and is rendered with both severity and plasticity, the edges standing out sharply against the convexity of the relief. The late thirteenth-century dating of this work is based on stylistic criteria (Kalavrezou-Maxeiner 1985, pp. 191-2).

Bibliography: Smyrnakis 1903, p. 623. Kadas 1979, p. 120. Kalavrezou-Maxeiner 1985, pp. 191-2.

K. L-T.
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13th century

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