UNKNOWN ICON PAINTER, Cretan
(active around 1550)
Transfiguration of Christc. 1550
Egg tempera on wood, 77 x 51 cm
Among the oldest Church feasts of the Christian East is that of the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor. This feast was depicted on the mosaic in the apse of St Catherine's monastery on Sinai as early as 565. The iconography here remained binding: the transfigured Christ stands in an aureole between the prophets Moses and Elijah, while the first three apostles to be called, Peter, John and James, throw themselves to the ground in fear, dazzled by the supernatural light.
We can see the same arrangement on this icon. Christ is standing on a sharp rocky outcrop in a radiant white garment, giving the blessing with His right hand and holding a closed scroll in His left. He is surrounded by an oval aureole of light, in which is inscribed a rectangle with inwardly curving sides, from which rays emanate towards Elijah and Moses, each standing on his own mountain summit in an attitude of veneration. Three further rays strike the three disciples, who have thrown themselves to the ground in prayer. To this basic scheme of the depiction of the event, this icon adds two others, which respectively precede and follow the Transfiguration. On the left, Christ is climbing the mountain with the three disciples, while on the right we see the descent.