Bogolyubskaya icon of the Mother of God

Types of Russian Domestic Icons

The history knows a lot of Orthodox Christian icons that differ in size, symbolic meaning, and technique of painting. Each of them is unique, which makes it impossible to find two identical hand-painted icons, even if they are created according to the same canon and belong to the same type. This is especially true for Russian domestic icons, many of which are custom painted to mark a specific event or occasion in the life of a family. These religious icon paintings form a so-called Russian icon corner that is used for private worship. There are five major types of domestic icons that can be found in the homes of Christian believers:

1. Votive icons

Votive icons are painted to remind of a promise given to God, in gratitude for getting rid of the diseases and dangers, or in memory of a significant and important event. They often depict miracles or stories that have a special meaning for the individual or the family. One of the most famous religious icons of this type is the Bogolyubskaya icon of the Mother of God commissioned by Prince Andrew Bogolyubsky in 1157.

2. Family icons

In most cases, family icons depict Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, and a guardian angel assigned to guide and protect the particular person or the whole family. However, the most interesting fact is that some exceptional examples of this type also depict the family members themselves, which is quite common to antique Russian icons that once belonged to the nobility and the royal families.

3. Icons of patron saints

Icons of patron saints are probably the most common type of Russian domestic icons that can be found in almost any home of Christian believers. They represent the most popular and distinctive direction in Russian icon art, which has special stylistic and symbolic features. For today, holy icons of patron saints come in a variety of forms, though each of them is still painted in full accordance with the canon.

4. Measured icons

Measured icons represent full-length icons of saints painted on a wood panel, the measurements of which match the baby’s height on the eighth day after the birth. This type appeared in the mid-16th century and was highly popular among the nobility. Measured icons are considered important family shrines that are inextricably linked with the person’s life and fate.

5. Wedding icons

Last but not least type of Russian domestic icons included in the home iconostasis is wedding icons. They usually represent a set of religious icon paintings depicting Jesus Christ and the Mother of God. Such icons are presented as a wedding gift that symbolizes harmonious marriage, love, and family wellbeing.

It is also worth noting that domestic icons do not differ much from church icons, although the latter are usually larger in size and more ornate. However, even the smallest and the simplest hand-painted domestic icons play a very important role in the life of Christian believers.