An icon is more than a picture: It’s a pictorial incarnation of holiness.
— A.O. Scott
The Virgin Mary
Russian School (attributed to)
The Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford
This painting, depicting the Virgin Mary, came to the Museum as part of the founding collection given to the University of Oxford by General Pitt-Rivers in 1884. One of the old catalogues describes it as a Russian icon, but the inscriptions are in Latin and Greek and its origins are uncertain. The inscription identifies it as a copy of a painting in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, which is supposed to be a portrait painted by the Evangelist Luke, which was first mentioned in a History of the Church written in the sixth century. However, there are many portraits of Mary supposedly painted by Luke. The painting at Santa Maria Maggiore is a half-length portrait of Mary with the child Jesus on her lap and bears little resemblance to this supposed copy.