The Virgin Tenderness, Post-Byzantine icon-painting, woodcut, local icon workshops of the 19th century, Balkan Peninsula.
Abstract: After the once mighty Byzantine Empire ended its existence in 1453, the masters of the local artistic schools from diﬀerent regions of the former empire preserved and developed the traditions of Byzantine icon painting, enriching them with contemporary innovations in both iconography and technique. These post-Byzantine traditions have continued to live up to the present, as shown, for example, in works of the remarkable Greek artist Manolis Betinakis.
In the history of post-Byzantine icon painting from the second half of the 15th century until the 21st , the period of the mid second half of the 19th century is among those that did not attract much attention of art historians. For fine art connoisseurs, icons of this period were works of practically contemporary painters, and, as a result, the Hermitage Museum, whose icons collection has been formed solely out of acquisitions of private, museum, and state collections, possessed only a few works of Greek and Balkan workshops. During the last decade, the purchase of icons from private persons, this lacuna became filled with interesting works made at Mount Athos, Palestine, the Balkans, and Ionian islands.
One of these icons, The Virgin of Tenderness, was acquired in 2013. The icon depicts the waist-high Virgin Mary holding the Child cuddled up with the cheek to the Virgin's face. Two life-size figures of Archangels Michael and Gavriil are placed in the upper corners; they crown the Virgin with one hand and hold the gold medallions with black monograms of Her name in the other, "МР ӨY". White letters "M" and "G" are visible over the gold halos of archangels. On the background, to the right from the figure of the Child, there are white monograms "IC XC"
The icon had some significant losses of coating and paint, a vertical crack, and chips. Taking into account that in the 19th century the artists often applied "atypical" materials experimenting with water solvent paints and varnishes, the restoration committee decided to use the case for the development of the methodology and choice of optimal materials for the restoration of Greek icon painting of the mid second half of the 19th century.
The Hermitage icon bears many features typical for the late Greek and Balkan painting. From the traditional iconographic type of The Virgin of Tenderness, well-known in Byzantine art from the 7th century, the icon diﬀers by the pose of the Child and position of hands of the Virgin. By its composition and iconographic details the icon finds numerous parallels in works of Bulgarian masters of the 19th century.
According to the results of the technical expertise of the pigments used and iconographic parallels, the icon was painted in the mid-19th century in one of the local workshops of the Balkan Peninsula.