Byzantine; Made in Constantinople
Inscribed in Greek initials: Mother of God (front); Jesus Christ, King of Glory (back)
Cloisonné enamel, gold
1 5/16 x 15/16 x 1/16 in. (3.3 x 2.4 x 2 cm)
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1994 (1994.403)
This double-faced icon pendant is a triumph of the greatest era of Byzantine cloisonné enamel production. It is a rare example of enameling on both surfaces of a single sheet of gold that, together, represent the Virgin interceding with her son on behalf of humankind. On one side is an austere, majestic bust of Christ encased in a golden frame, symbolic of Heaven. His right hand is raised in a gesture of benediction, while in his other hand he presents the Gospels, their clasp open. As indicated by the Greek inscriptions in the half-lobes of the frame, the image is a miniature replica of Christ as Pantokrator (Ruler of All)a popular theme for the decoration of the central dome of Middle Byzantine churches. The Virgin, on the other side, turns toward the (now damaged) hand of God, her hands raised in prayer. The (partially lost) sky-blue ground surrounding her and the vivid green of the half-lobes place her in the earthly realm of the icon's owner, whose prayers would have sought her assistance. Her pose, that of the Virgin Hagiosoritissa, was widely popular during the Middle Byzantine era.