The Black Madonna of Chestochowa icon, hand-painted frame

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The Black Madonna of Chestochowa icon, hand-painted frame

1,260.00

The Black Madonna of Częstochowa, also known as Our Lady of Częstochowa, is a revered icon of the Virgin Mary housed at the Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa, Poland. This painting of Mary and Child has fascinated people for ages, and its provenance is still shrouded in mystery and legends. 

According to some legends, the original image was painted by the hand of St Luke the Evangelists, and while St Luke was painting Mary (allegedly on the tabletop that came from her house in Nazareth), she related the events in the life of Jesus that would be used in his Gospel.

In 326 AD, St. Helen (the mother of Constantine the Great) discovered this image in Jerusalem, where she went, following her vision, in search of the true Cross. She presented this image of Our Lady to Constantine, who built a shrine in Constantinople and where the icon remained until the eighth century.

The earliest historical fact could be traced to 1382, when the painting was brought to Poland to the Pauline Fathers Monastery at Jasna Gora  by Prince Wladyslaw Jagiello from a castle at Belz, Russia. Prince Wladyslaw Jagiello invited the monks to safeguard the holy image.

Many miracles are attributed to this painting of Madonna and Child. She is said to have repelled invaders and curried illness. One of the stories explains the scars on Mary’s face. 

In spring of 1430, the monastery at Jasna Gora was attacked and looted. Mary’s image was already damaged with arrows during the siege, but when the raiders attempted to take the icon, the horses that pulled the cart with treasures refused to move, and no amount of whipping could force them to leave the spot. One of the looters threw the icon on the ground and stabbed it with his sword, but when he raised it the third time, he fell down and died. The image was eventually repainted in Krakow, but the arrow marks and the two gashes from the sword are clearly visible today.

The image of the Black Madonna is painted on primed wood board with tempera. Mary’s face draws attention. Her long and narrow nose, small and prominent lips, and wide-set half-closed eyes evoke a sense of melancholy. With her raised hand, Mary points to her son as the salvation of humankind. This iconographic depiction of the Theotokos is known as the Hodegetria (“She who shows the Way”).

Although there is no eye contact between the mother and the son, as on some icons, their union is emphasized by some artistic elements. Their halos are close together. Jesus’s robe is reflected in the darker shade of Mary’s garment lining. Their clothes are ornamented with golden patter and trimmed with a golden band. Most intriguingly, the tone of their skin is darker than on typical icons. The image was probably originally painted with darker flesh tones, and some discoloration could be perhaps attributed to age and smoke.

The presented icon is 14x18 inch, egg tempera and 23.5 k gold leaf on reclaimed wood, hand-painted frame. Wired and ready to hang.

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