Mother of God of Tender Compassion

Tamara Penwell's icon of The Mother of God of Tender Compassion

This icon of the Mother of God is of the Eleousa type, meaning Tenderness. These icons emphasize Christ’s humanity and closeness to his mother.

Mary is seen in the same colours as Christ Pantocrator except the other way round, ie. the red outer garment and blue under garment. By using blue we do not ascribe divine nature to Mary but rather the attainment of divine wisdom. The stars on her forehead and shoulders are symbols of her ever-virginity.

Baby Jesus is wearing a white or scarlet robe often decorated with gold assist. His facial features are not typical of a baby or child but combine elements of an aged face, showing that the baby in the icon is literally older than the hills, or in fact ageless. In some icons baby Jesus is holding a rolled up scroll. A scroll in icons always signifies divine Wisdom. In this case the icon makes a statement that Jesus was endowed with divine Wisdom from babyhood. The scroll in the hands of baby Jesus is always rolled up, which signifies that his Wisdom was not revealed until later. Rowan Williams poetically refers to this as the “silence of the Divine Logos”.

The band on Christ’s shoulder, also seen on the shoulders of apostles, angels and archangels, probably derived from the Byzantine courtly dress. In icons it became a symbol of a specific mission or purpose the person wearing the band was to accomplish.