Christ Pantocrator - Antique Russian icons


An early type of the Christ icon is the "image not made by human hands of Christ". Icons of this kind are replicas of the "Image of Edessa", the image that King Abgar of Edessa is said to have received personally from Christ. Since it was printed on cloth, it was also called "Mandylion". With this type of icon, the face of Christ, framed by hair on his head and beard, faces the viewer frontally. The base of the neck is not visible and the crown of thorns is missing.


Concurrent to the Mandylion is the Veronica's handkerchief, which is venerated in the Christian West and can be traced back to 1400. However, it shows Christ with the crown of thorns.


Legend has it that Saint Veronica handed her veil to  Christ to dry his sweat while he carried his cross to Golgotha. The Mandylion type of icon of Christ is very much venerated in Russia and is carried in the procession on the feast of Orthodoxy on February 19. In numerous replicas, the whole head is surrounded by a golden aureole in which the Greek words "ho on", "the being", are painted.


Another very old type of icon is Christ Pantocrator, "the all-ruler", as we often find him on mosaics and frescoes from early Christian times. Like the Mandylion type, it is stylistically modified over the centuries and the facial expression changes, but does not experience any conceptually variations.


The Pantocrator - half or full figure - holds the closed or open Gospel book in the left hand, the right is raised in a gesture of blessing, and at the same time the fingers point to the clearly legible text of the book. The blessing gesture is performed in the Orthodox area with a raised or angled arm in front of the chest. Thumb, index and middle fingers are raised; the ring finger, often also the little finger, is angled and touches the thumb or moves towards it. In images from the Middle Byzantine period, the back of the hand is usually turned inwards. The left hand can hold a scroll instead of the book. The Pantocrator is usually depicted enthroned, sometimes dressed like a bishop and with his insignia on.


The people probably appealed particularly to this Christ, who has very human features and a violent emotion: The eyes are sharp, the forehead is furrowed, the facial expression is gloomy. The face shown on the front is framed by long hair hanging down on the shoulder and back; the neck and part of the shoulders are visible.