Icon of the Virgin and Child, Hodegetria variant

Byzantine or Crusader Byzantine or Crusader

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 199

This intimate variant of the Byzantine Virgin Hodegetria (She who shows the Way) and the Virgin Eleousa (Virgin of Tenderness) icon types embodies the cross-cultural currents of the thirteenth century when Crusader artists coming East from Italy, France, England, and elsewhere in Europe met artists of the Byzantine tradition of the Orthodox Church. The exquisite faces of the Virgin and Child are typical of Byzantine icons in style. The Virgin’s pensive gaze recognizes the future suffering of her son as in Hodegetria icons. Christ’s upturned face would be nestled against the Virgin’s neck in an Eleousa icon in a gesture of tenderness. By distancing the Child, the artist has created a new variant of the Hodegetria type where the Virgin becomes a nurturing mother as she points to her infant son as the path to salvation. The Child’s hand on his shoulder may refer to where the cross would later rest as he carried it to his Crucifixion.

Icon of the Virgin and Child, Hodegetria variant, Byzantine or Crusader (13th century), Tempera on wood, Byzantine or Crusader

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