01 September 2016

Notes on the Icon ” The Saints Cosmas and Damian”

The icon was inspired by mosaics seen in Rome and Ravenna as well as by VIth century icons executed in encaustic technique. The composition is based on the earliest iconographic representation of the Saints in the dome mosaic of the Basilica of Saint Cosmas and Damian in Rome, and more especially on the depiction of the Saints’ faces, the central position of Christ and the blue background with clouds.

Wood, cold encaustic writing.
Size: 114×80 cm
By Andrei Zharov (Belarus, 2015)

Iconography of the Icon

The Saints are shown in traditional Roman garb, wearing a tunic (a light garment with sleeves) covered by a himation (a sleeveless wrap). These historically realistic vestments follow the tradition of early Christian iconography.

Compositional concept; artistic and theological choices

The subject of the icon is the fraternal unity of the Holy Healers.

The artistic representation is based on the following thematic choices:

  1. Cosmas and Damian hold medical instruments while standing linked in a fraternal embrace. Similar compositions are found in early Christian art (for example, in the VIth century icon of Christ with Bishop Mina (Louvre), or in the VIIth century mosaic of the Basilica of St. Demetrios in Thessaloniki).
  2. The medical instruments held by the brothers are different but complementary.
  3. The martyrs’ overlapping aureoles and a medallion with the image of the Saviour emphasize the unity of the holy brothers in Christ while emphasising that Jesus Christ is the prime source of all healing. A similar compositional solution was chosen for the icon of the brothers Saint Sergius and Bacchus (VIth century, Sinai Monastery).

The artistic choices made for the present icon also refer to the Life of Saint Cosmas and Damian, which relates that they spoke the following words when healing the sick: «Know that we ourselves have no power, but that all comes from the Almighty Power of Christ, the one true God. If you believe in Him, you will be healed.»