The icon of Christ the King of Glory offers an unique prototype within the iconographic tradition. It’s the image of Christ laid in the tomb, or to put it more bluntly, the icon of Christ’s dead body. This offers an unique challenge to the iconographer, as the eyes are painted closed. In all other cases of which I’m aware, the saint always meets us with open eyes. It is the icon of Holy Saturday. The day between Good Friday and Pascha (Easter) Sunday—when Christ’s body was in the grave.
The first time I saw this prototype was during the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition Byzantium: Faith and Power in New York. It was in a room full of beautiful Russian icons demonstrating the influence that the Byzantines had even after their demise. That icon of Christ the King of Glory was a dark, almost monochromatic, image. But, it held my attention for quite a while. It was very sad and very beautiful. In creating such an icon here in the studio, it’s been important to try and hold on to both those aspects of such a work.
What I love about this icon is that it demonstrates how very little of reality we usually perceive. While praying before this icon, we contemplate the ultimate sacrifice of love in the form of a dead body. But, in reality, at the same moment that we see Christ’s body laying in the tomb, the gates of Hell are smashed. And, all those who hoped in the Messiah’s coming are marching into glory. Our reality shows us a dead corpse, but the reality is that death has died.
I hope that some day the studio will receive a commission to create the icon of the Harrowing of Hell. It’s a complicated work, but also the other half of this icon, in a way … But, until then, I hope this icon is a blessing to those who pray with it, and that those who do will find comfort in that what God is doing is often so much more than what we see.
To purchase a card or poster of this icon, please visit the studio’s shop.
This icon of Christ the King of Glory is in the Conestoga style and created primarily out of that region’s local colours and materials. The original icon resides in a private residence in Nova Scotia, Canada.