Back to the magazine2021 year №4

Ukrainian Icons Theotokos Mother of Mercy (New Iconographic Interpretation of Traditional Plot)

Read the postRead the postDownload the post
The authors of the publication:
Burkovska Liubov
Bibliographic description:
Burkovska, L. (2021) Ukrainian Icons Theotokos Mother of Mercy (New Iconographic Interpretation of Traditional Plot). Folk Art and Ethnology, 3 (391), 50–57.


Burkovska Liubov

a Ph.D. in Art Studies, a research fellow at the Department of Visual and Applied Arts of the NASU M. Rylskyi Institute of Art Studies, Folkloristics and Ethnology


Ukrainian Icons Theotokos Mother of Mercy (New Iconographic Interpretation of Traditional Plot)



Baroque trends, which have been extended in the Ukrainian religious art of the late 17th – early 18th centuries, contributed to the expansion of its thematic composition, stylistic changes and the emergence of new iconographic plots. The icons Theotokos Mother of Mercy, or the Cossack Intercession, as they are also called, are a clear example of the renewal of themes in Ukrainian religious art during the Baroque period. This iconographic version of the Intercession, apparently, is borrowed from Western European painting; it is correlated with the compositional type of the image of the Intercession of the Theotokos – Madonna della Misericordia – popular in Italian art.

It is supposed, that the image of the Blessed Virgin, covering the parish with the mantle, has been inspired by the vision of the Cistercian monk, theologian and writer Caesar of Geisterbach, who describes it in his Dialogus Miraculorum (1221). Formation of the iconography Madonna della Misericordia in Western European art has started in the 13th century. The Virgin usually stands on the early images. The Christians staying under the protection of the Virgin Mary are depicted on their knees and in a much smaller scale. The icons Madonna della Misericordia have been often ordered by specific groups of believers, such as fraternities, professional guilds, monasteries and abbeys.

The theme of the Intercession of Theotokos of the iconographic version Theotokos Mother of Mercy has taken a special place in the Ukrainian iconography of the Baroque period. The image of the Patroness, blessing and covering the faithful with her mantle, has attracted Ukrainian masters with the realism and majesty of the compositional plan. The popularity and rapid dissemination of this iconographic variety of the Intercession have been caused also by the fact that it presents individualized images of people from different layers of the that time society with special penetration. Contemplating the icons of the Intercession in the temples, the believers have seen obviously a powerful and merciful patroness in the image of the Mother of God.

Ukrainian icons Theotokos Mother of Mercy of the 17th – early 18th centuries are filled with the search for a new artistic expressiveness, reveal the nature of the transition period and the peculiarities of the process of formation of a new stylistic system of sacred painting.



icon, composition, art, iconography, plot, image.



  1. ABRAMOVYCH, Dmytro. Kyiv-Pechersk Paterik: (Introduction, Text, Annotations). Kyiv, 1931, 26, 234, [1] pp. [in Ukrainian].
  2. ALEKSANDROVYCH, Volodymyr. Art of the Galicia-Volhynian State. Lviv: NASU Ivan Krypyakevych Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1999, 132 pp.: ill. [in Ukrainian].
  3. 3.ALEKSANDROVYCH, Volodymyr. Intercession of the Theotokos. Ukrainian Medieval Iconography. Lviv: NASU Ivan Krypyakevych Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 2010, 468 pp.: ill. [in Ukrainian].
  4. BURKOVSKA, Liubov. Ancient Ukrainian Icons. Research of the Iconographic and Stylish Transformationsin the Iconography of the 15th – 18th centuries. Kyiv, 2019, 480 pp.: ill. [in Ukrainian].
  5. ZHARKOV, Boris, Aleksandr KRYSOV. Dominik Guzman, Founder of the Order of Preacher Brothers. In: ALEXY II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, editor. Orthodox Encyclopedia. Moscow: Church-Scientific Center Orthodox Encyclopedia, 2007, vol. 15, pp. 610–613 [in Russian].
  6. KOSIV, Roksolana. Iconography and Attribution of the Icon of Rybotic Stylistics Theotokos Mother of Mercy / St. Nicholas at the turn of the 17th – 18th Centuries. In: SIERYKOV, Anatoliy, ed.-in-chief. Sights of Ukraine, 2013, 12 (196), 46–53 [in Ukrainian].
  7. KUZMENKO, Elena. Monastic Everyday Life of German Cistercians in Visionary Texts of the 13th Century. A Ph.D. Thesis, specialty 07.00.03. (General history. The Middle Ages). Moscow: Mikhail Lomonosov Moscow State University, 2016, 405 pp. [online] Available from: [in Russian].
  8. LIDOV, Aleksey. Miraculous Icons in the Temple Scenery. About the Symbolic Program of the Imperial Gate of Sophia of Constantinople. In: Aleksey LIDOV, editor-compiler. Miraculous Icon in Byzantium and Ancient Russia. Moscow: Martis, 1996, pp. 44–75 [in Russian].
  9. SHPIDLIK, Teofil, Marko-Ivan RUPNIK. What does the Icon Tell about. Translated by Maryana PROKOPOVYCH. Lviv: Svichado, 1999, 126 pp. [in Ukrainian].
  10. REAU, Louis. Iconography of Christian Art. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1957, vol. 2/2, 623 pp. [in French].