THE MANDYLION

One of the most important images in iconic art, having strong iconographic and stylistic affinity, is The Mandylion, Holy Visage, or The Saviour Acheiropoietos. This icon features the face of Christ as it was miraculously transferred onto a cloth to be sent to a king who was ill. This composition, also known as the Sudarium or Saviour Uncreated-by-human-hands, was said to have been sent by Christ himself to Abgar, king of Edessa. According to legend, this was the first icon, or "prototype" painted.

Legend tells us that these images were brought to Constantinople and they were reproduced in great numbers in the Byzantium and Slavic countries. The composition of the cloth, or Vernicle, varies mainly in the way the cloth itself is depicted. According to written sources it was initially shown as a smooth surface, but since the fourteenth century, it has most often been depicted folded. Subsequently the composition became more complex with the introduction of half-length figures of Archangels Michael and Gabriel holding up the cloth, while in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, full-length images of the Archangels can be found to the sides of the Vernicle. The image of the Vernicle came to be regarded as a protector, a "bringer of victory".

The origins of this icon go back to Russia, 12th century.

The icon by the hand of Janusz Charczuk. Egg tempera on wood, priming on textile, background 23 K gold leaf. 40.0 x 28.5 cm (15.75 x 11.25 in).