The Shuiskaya-Smolenskaya icon is a waist-length depiction of the Mother of God holding the Child Jesus in her arms. The Savior sits to Her right on the left arm of the Theotokos. The iconographic feature of the Shuiskaya icon distinguishing it from other Hodegetria types is the characteristic position of the arms and legs of the Divine Child: the feet of his left leg stands on the ankle of the left, with his left hand he supports his feet. In his right hand Christ is holding a folded scroll. The Mother of God supports the Child’s left leg with Her right hand.

A history of the creation of the Shuiskaya-Smolenskaya icon of the Mother of God is associated with the epidemic of plague that broke out in Shuia in 1654. The tale of the icon reports that the parishioners of the Resurrection Church proposed to create a new icon of the Mother of God Hodegetria of Smolensk “for the sake of salvation from the troubles that came upon them.” The icon was commissioned in 1655 to iconographer Gerasim Tikhonovich Ikonnikov. The icon with dimensions of 110.7 х 88.7 cm was placed in the sovereign row to the right of the Holy Gates of the iconostasis at the Resurrection Cathedral in Shuia. The plague stopped soon and the icon continued to work wonders. The Tale explains the unusual composition of the icon in the following way: every time the iconographer attempted to paint the Mother of God Smolenskaya in accordance with the painter’s guide, the position of the Child Christ’s arms and legs changed miraculously. Not daring to correct it, the painter regarded it as a miracle and manifestation of the Divine Providence and told about it to his fellow-people who were struck and scared by the wonder and praised God for it. The iconographer had only had to add the final touches to the icon that had painted itself. By the decree of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich and by the blessing of Patriarch Josaphat, a commission was sent to Shuia to verify the authenticity of the miracles reported. It confirmed and described the authenticity of the miracles and the icon got the name “Smolenskaya-Shuiskaya Mother of God.” Since then the icon is officially venerated as wonderworking. In 1922 the miraculous icon was confiscated from the church and is now considered missing.

The special iconography of the wonderworking icon is derived from the earlier protograph, particularly widespread in Russian icon-painting in the 16th century such as the icon of the Mother of God Hodegetria of Shuia dating from the third quarter of the 16th century from the cathedral of the Savior Monastery in Murom (now located in the Murom Museum of History and Art).

The icon is commemorated three times a year: on August 10 (July 28, O.S.), together with other Hodegetria icons, on November 15 (November 2, O.S.) in commemoration of the painting of the icon and the cessation of the plague, and on Tuesday of the Holy Week, in memory of the first recorded miracle from the icon.

Zhanna G. Belik,

Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.

Olga E. Savchenko,

research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.


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