“Entreaty of the servant of God”: An inscription on an icon of the Virgin and Child

Virgin and Child of the Church of the Panagia Chrysaliniotissa. Byzantine Museum, Nicosia (Brad Hostetler / Flickr)
Virgin and Child of the Church of the Panagia Chrysaliniotissa. Byzantine Museum, Nicosia (Brad Hostetler / Flickr)

The Byzantine Museum in Nicosia, Cyprus owns this lovely icon of the Virgin and Child. According to the label, the icon came from the Church of the Panagia Chrysaliniotissa, and was made in the 12th century and repainted in the 16th.

The hem of the Virgin’s left sleeve preserves a short formulaic prayer that names the donor: ΔΕΗΣΙΣ ΤΟΥ ΔΟỴΛΟΥ ΚΩΝΣΤΑΝΤΙΝΟΥ (Entreaty of the servant, Constantine).

Such inscriptions on the Virgin’s hem are known (Drpić, “Chrysepes Stichourgia,” p. 64), but the particular arrangement of this text is unusual. It begins at (a) and reads from left to right, then jumps back to (c) with the name Constantine twisting down the folds of the hem.

Usually such prayers inscribed on works of art read: Δέησις τοῦ δούλου τοῦ Θεοῦ (Entreaty of the servant of God) (Gerstel, Rural Lives, p. 132), but this inscription appears to be missing the words τοῦ Θεοῦ (of God). However, we may find these words at (b). While not immediately apparent due to the panel’s damage, an Ο and Υ may be visible on the downward bend of the hem. If so, we can reconstruct the inscription as ΔΕΗΣΙΣ ΤΟΥ ΔΟỴΛΟΥ [ΤΟΥ ΘΕ]ỌỴ ΚΩΝΣΤΑΝΤΙΝΟΥ (Entreaty of the servant of God, Constantine).

Virgin and Child of the Church of the Panagia Chrysaliniotissa. Byzantine Museum, Nicosia (Brad Hostetler / Flickr)
Virgin and Child of the Church of the Panagia Chrysaliniotissa. Byzantine Museum, Nicosia (Brad Hostetler / Flickr)

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