Icon of the Theotokos “Eleusa” (Merciful) – T28

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The Eleusa or Merciful icons of the Virgin Mary are very ancient in their first appearing, and strike a deep resonance in our hearts because the closeness of the Virgin to her Divine Son is by extension an icon and example of the closeness that we as Christians should desire to develop with Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Lord here shows great loving-kindness to us through His mother, adapting in this icon many aspects from other famous icons. 

This unknown iconographer from the 16th century Rostov/Suzdal School of iconography gives the Virgin’s expression as pensively sorrowful, insightful, and yet detached from this world’s perspective.  It seems as though the Theotokos (from the Greek for “Birth-Giver of God”) is looking not only at us, but beyond us and onwards into eternity.  The Lord and His mother are shown in continuous silhouette to present an image of unity, rather that duality, which reminds us that these two always live in a close embrace and in a continuous relationship of suffering love.  The icon is now kept at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow as a part of their permanent icon display.    

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Eleusa (Merciful)




Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia


16th c.


Rostov / Suzdal