The Tikhvin icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Tikhvin Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The featured Russian icon bearing the depiction of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the centerpiece is a successor of an ancient Christian tradition. The history behind it is just as fascinating as this religious work of art itself.

The icon is a variation of the iconographic tradition inspired by the “Tale of the Miracles of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God,” a legend of the miraculous icon that made revelations seven times when people needed help. One of the most well-known appearances is the salvation of people from the ruins of the collapsed Dormition Cathedral.

The Tikhvin icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The legend says that the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared on the shores of the Tikhvinka River. The church that was built there to commemorate the miracle then moved to the other bank of the river. The Tikhvin icon famously remained unaffected by the three fires that the monastery built around the wooden church endured. One of the most well-known miracles performed by the icon was the protection of the Tikhvin monastery from the Swedish, a recorded historical event that took place in 1613.

The border scenes of the given antique hand-painted icon depict the three fires, the icon’s miracles, and the process of construction of the church. The icon is especially valuable because it contains two border scenes dedicated to the life of Saint Martyrius of Zelenetsk, the saint who founded the Holy Trinity Zelenetsk monastery. He was blessed with a revelation about the place where a new convent would be built. Besides, according to the legend, Martyrius of Zelenetsk commissioned a copy of the icon depicting the Tikhvin Blessed Virgin Mary, which revived Prince Ivan, the son of the Khan of Kasima.

The story of Saint Martyrius of Zelenetsk became part of the “Tale of the Miracles of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God” in the middle of the 17th century. Nevertheless, border scenes representing his life were rarely found in icons of this type, which makes this specific piece a truly unique work of Russian religious art.

There are significant reasons to suspect that the given Tikhvin icon was created by Old Believer icon painters of the Vladimir region, who often took commissions for these kinds of depictions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The stylistic characteristics of the icon lead to the conclusion that it was most likely painted in the third quarter of the 19th century.