Description This small circular box is a 'panaghiarion,' i.e. container for a piece of the 'panaghia' (bread) dedicated to the Virgin in an Orthodox monastic service (compare WAM inv. 71.257-258). The relief carving on the inside of the left half shows the Hospitality of Abraham (Genesis 18:1-15), or Old Testament Trinity. On the back, the side that would be worn outward, is an image of the Crucifixion. On the other half of the piece is an image of the Virgin of the Sign, a composition symbolizing the Immaculate Conception, in which an image of the young Christ Emmanuel is superimposed upon Mary's chest. The Virgin's upraised arms are an ancient gesture of prayer, encountered among both Jews and Gentiles. In early Christianity, this gesture also represented the soul, praying for those left behind on earth. On the back is an image of the Three Hierarchs, Saints Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil the Great, and John Chrysostom. Above the hinges, between the holes for suspension, is an engraved image of the Holy Face (or "Mandylion"), an image of Christ's face that, according to tradition, was miraculously imprinted upon a cloth and later sent by Christ to cure King Agbar of Edessa (a city in Syria).
Provenance Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1931, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, 1931
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