The Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God is one of the most famous and beloved icons in Orthodoxy and particularly within Russia. It is so well-known, that I haven’t even bothered to write anything about it on this blog, as there are numerous sources around that explain the wonder-working icon’s history better than I could.
One thing that isn’t as well-known is what is painted on the reverse of the icon, or that there is even anything on the reverse of this famous icon at all. However, icons that are often used in processions – and the Vladimir icon has been processed on numerous occasions – will have an image painted on the back. This is part of the Orthodox “mindset” that does not like to see a blank space where a holy image would be much more inspirational. Therefore, from the 12th century onwards, when the Vladimir icon was leading a procession, this image would be visible on the reverse-side.
It is an image of the Hetoimasia, or Throne of Preparation. This image is a common detail of many, many icons, frescos and mosaics of the Church throughout the ages, and is the subject of a separate post.