Extended Deesis

Region: Russian
Period: Ca. 1600
Size: 36 x 31 cm


A Russian icon of the Extended Deesis, ca. 1600.

The Greek word Deesis can be translated as entreaty or request. Characteristic of the iconography of a Deesis is that a group of saints turn to the centrally depicted Christ in intercession. The purpose of this intercession is to implore mercy for all mankind. The saints stand on the left and right side next to Christ’s throne, with their heads bowed in the direction of Christ and usually one hand directed towards him.

The Deesis is the most important and therefore the most central part of an iconostasis in Orthodox Church. In churches, the Deësis usually consists of several separate panels. The order of closeness to Christ is almost always the same: the Mother of God and John the Forerunner (the Baptist) stand right next to the throne, followed by the archangels Michael and Gabriel and the apostles Peter and Paul. For the positions further away from Christ, there is an increasing degree of room for differences. Here there is a place for the other apostles, evangelists, early church fathers, warrior saints, martyrs and other, possibly local, church saints.

In the centre of this icon, Christ Almighty is seated on a throne. He is holding a gospel book in his left hand. To the left and right of Christ are the Mother of God and John the Forerunner, their heads bowed in intercession. Behind the throne are the archangels Michael and Gabriel, followed by the two saints who are considered to be the founders of the early Christian church: the apostles Peter and Paul.