Moscow School. Ca.1500.
Castle De Wijenburgh, Echteld, Netherlands, 72 x 61cm.
This icon depicts the major holiday of the Presentation of Christ or Meeting of Jesus Christ, also known as the Purification of the Holy Virgin after the forty days (celebrated on February 2nd). The presentation of the Christ Child in the temple embodies the concept of the "Author of the Law accomplishing what was laid down by the law" (Vespers 1). The scene of the meeting takes place in the temple, in front of the altar, which is represented in our icon as a table covered with a canopy... On the two sides of the altar are the Mother of God (left) and St. Simeon (right). The Mother of God is holding out Her two hands, covered with the maphorion, in a gesture of offering. She has just handed Her Son to Simeon. The ancient holy man, leaning forward, holds the Child in his two hands, also covered with his garment (as a sign of veneration). St. Joseph follows the Mother of God carrying in the fold of his garment the offering of poor parents. . . St. Anne, the daughter of Phanuel . . ., stands behind St Simeon, in the background.
This icon is particularly interesting for its choice of color, intense and full of contrasts. Its composition is also much more complex. In agreement with the icon-painting rules, the figures are depicted in front of the building, while the action is actually happening inside. This icon is much more two-dimensional. Russian icons are supposed to be two-dimensional, since three-dimensionality belongs to the real world. These are works that are supposed to represent superior spiritual beings and therefore they are not supposed to be realistic. The colors are very interesting. A lot of care was taken in choosing the color with the most contrast. The altar is orange as if to direct the focus of the viewer to the main action, which is the presentation in the temple. By contrast the robes of both St. Simeon and the Virgin are much darker in comparison with the very bright color of the baby Christ. Finally, the rich green color of the background finds many analogies in the 16th and 17th-century Moscow icon painting [S.C.].
[Source: Ouspensky and Lossky].