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 Russian Icon

1896

Christ the Pantocrator

 

Oil on wood with silver rizza 8.5 by 10 inches with Kyot 12.5 by 14.5 inches, Original kyot

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Pantocrator is a compound word formed from the Greek word for "all" and the noun for "strength". The icon depicts Christ fully frontal with a somewhat melancholy and stern aspect, with the right hand raised in blessing or, in the conventional rhetorical gesture that represents teaching. The left hand holds an open bible. The icon portrays Christ as the Righteous Judge and the Lover of Mankind, both at the same time. The Gospel is the book by which we are judged, and the blessing proclaims God's loving kindness toward us, showing us that he is giving us his forgiveness.

Although ruler of all, Christ is not pictured with a crown or scepter as other kings of this world. The large open eyes look directly into the soul of the viewer. The high curved forehead shows wisdom. The long slender nose is a look of nobility, the small closed mouth, the silence of contemplation.

The oldest known Pantocrator icon was written in the sixth century. It was preserved in the monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai desert. This remote location enabled the image to survive the iconoclastic era in Byzantine history (726-815) when most icons were destroyed.