Q: Did St. Luke paint Mary? In particular, is he the
painter of the famous icon of Vladimir?
|A: The Vladimirska is without doubt the
most venerated Marian icon of the East. It has not only one but two
feast days: May 21 and August 26. This icon was commissioned by a
Russian patron in 1125 in Byzantium (according to Rice). Andrej Boguejubiskij brought it 1155 from Vysegorod to Susdal, and in 1163
it was taken to Vladimir from which city the icon received its famous
name. The Vladimirska was transferred in 1395 to the Uspenskij
Cathedral in Moscow to protect the city against Tamerlan.
Today it can be seen in the Tretjakow gallery.
She is the protectress of Russia. This icon called Our Lady of
Tenderness (Eleousa) is not attributed to St. Luke but it is right to
say that the prototype of the Eleousa was attributed to St. Luke and,
according to legend, was brought by Empress Eudokia from Palestine to
Constantinople (in 440).
The oldest known Eleousa icon dates from 7-9 C
and its origin lies in Syria (ivory statuette). However, an even
older icon-type claims St. Luke the Evangelist as artist. That is the
Hodegitria icon venerated in the Hodegos Church in Byzantium. The
original - also a gift of Empress Eudokia - was big and heavy. Legend
claims that it was painted on the table top in Mary's house by St.
Luke under Mary's supervision. Thus it is considered the model and
original (with the Eleousa) of all Marian images. The reference to
St. Luke is not a historical fact. What it means is this:
1) St. Luke's description of Mary and Jesus in the
Infancy narrative is that of a gifted painter, meaning detailed and
2) Icons attributed to St. Luke claim authority. They serve as models for
all subsequent ones.
3) The attribution to St. Luke is frequently used to indicate absence of
4) St. Luke's icons are distinctively old and of miraculous character.
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