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A second point of comparison is the level of austerity

A second point of comparison is the level of austerity -...

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A second point of comparison is the level of austerity, or lack thereof, in this painting. Russian icons, particularly those heavily influenced by Byzantine examples, tend to be rather disquieting and sometimes even fearsome representations of the other-worldly figures. As Russian icon painting developed, however, the representations became more tender and less severe but not, I believe, quite as free and "light" as the figures in this scene. The movement of the angels appears to be spontaneous and free; the Virgin's clothes are being blown by the wind, even the clouds and the luminosity of the background indicate a transience that is just balanced by a feeling of eternal peace and goodwill. The very fact that all these details draw one's attention to nature also emphasizes freedom and God's living presence within his creation.
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Unformatted text preview: These "secondary" considerations are important to creating mood and atmosphere, but are perhaps subordinate to the expressions of Mary and baby Jesus. The Virgin's face reflects a calm and determined spirit, while the baby is active and eager to begin his work on the earth. One could even say that Jesus' arms here are welcoming, ready to embrace the world with both His love and His peace. This is distinctly different from the more "placid" baby Jesus typical of icons. His eyes are even bright and seem to be intelligent; Vasnetsov has expressed this both through their size and intensity. Mary's eyes are also large and intense, but this was achieved more in the old style of icon painting. Large, dark, and almond shaped, Mary's eyes are perhaps one of the most "mystical" aspects of the painting....
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