Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Variations on the Mother of God Hodegetria icon

June 21st, 2010, Promulgated by Bernie

continued from Mother of God Icons:The Virgin Hodegetria and Mother of God Icons

Within each category of Mother of God icons we can find numerous variations, more so in the Western Church than in the Eastern. Recall that faithful copying from the prototype is of paramount importance in the Eastern Church. I shall not get into the rather long explanation for that tradition except to reinterate that miraculous powers are usually associated with original images; therefore, faithful copying extends the grace to the newer images. Artists in the West eventually pursued a much more naturalistic approach to religious imagery. Increasingly, personal interpretations by artists began to play a role. You can judge for yourself as to whether that was a good or bad development. It was certainly a far more challenging approach as far as what should or should not be used in the service of the Liturgy. That’s a whole other subject.

Below are some variations in the category of the Mother of God Hodegetria icons (“She who knows/shows the way”). You might want to try to determine how each artist has tried to express the concepts we briefly explained when looking at the Virgin Hodegetria icon in the previous post.

As always, click on the image for a larger, clearer display.

“Madonna and Child”

Left: Fra Angelica (b.1395-d.1455); Center: Raphael (ca. 1503);

Right: Domenico Ghirlandaio (ca. 1470-75)

“Madonna and Child”

Giulio Romano (ca. 1523); a pupil of Raphael

“Madonna and Child”

Left: Duccio (1293-1305); Center: Michelangelo (ca. 1501-05);

Right: Carlo Crivelli (perhaps 1480-86)


Picture credits:

Raphael Madonna – Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, USA.

Ghirlandaio Madonna -National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Fra Angelico and Romano Madonnas – Art Experts Website. 1 January 2010. Art Experts, Inc. June 19, 2010

Michelangelo Sculpture – Vrouwekerk, Bruges


Crivelli Madonna – Pinacoteca Civica, Ancona

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3 Responses to “Variations on the Mother of God Hodegetria icon”

  1. benanderson says:

    so it’s probably hard to explain via text, but how do you pronounce hodegetria?

  2. Bernie says:

    I wanted to be sure so I emailed Father Patrick Crowles at Holy Spirit Greek Orthodox Church on Mt.Hope Avenue. (I would have been wrong, it turns out.)

    Fr. Patrick is a terrific priest by the way. If you are interested in learning about the Greek Orthodox Church he does lessons which you can sign up for at their Greek Festival (September, I think.) It’s usually about 3 or 4 free informal lessons. To ask questions about the lessons:

  3. benanderson says:

    wow – thanks for the extra effort research, Bernie. Now this is one less word I’ve read about that I won’t grossly mispronounce 🙂

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