Icon depicting the Entry into Jerusalem

Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, with his disciples, takes place in a rich landscape, which extends into the background, and in front of the wall of the city. Christ “on the foal of a donkey” advances to the right and is placed on the left of the composition, accompanied by a dense group of apostles. Developed in the background is a landscape with rocky mountains, in which projects, on smaller scale, a walled city surrounded by three trees. Jerusalem, with numerous buildings behind the walls, occupies a conspicuous position on the right of the composition. A multitude of Jews, gesticulating animatedly, comes forth from two gates and proceeds in front of the walls.

The composition is characterized by the varied landscape, which develops on successive levels in the background, and the penchant for detail, evidenced by the secondary episodes from the daily life of little children in the countryside, on an extremely small scale, as well as by the introduction of abundant decorative elements, such as the mask motifs in monochrome technique on the facades of the buildings. Diverse groups of children holding palm fronds welcome Christ, spreading their garments on the ground and clambering up trees, or have already climbed up a tall leafy tree and are lopping off branches, in front of Jerusalem. Additional small figures peep out from the walls of the city and through openings in the walls and the buildings, while in the distance in the landscape left, in miniature, is a figure mounted on a quadruped and a host of little children, one up a tree and two others on a knoll watching their friends in the tree. In front of the main composition, where the soft planes of the brownish foreground with the sparse vegetation spread, are two cows on the right, a built fountain on the left, as well as the one “crowned with thorns” and other small children playing and wrestling in lively movements, all genre elements of a bucolic landscape.

The iconographic composition of this icon derives from models of classical character, comparable to those used in the Peribleptos and primarily the Pantanassa at Mystras, in which the composition is set in an interesting landscape with the addition of two bovines as well as analogous genre elements. It diffused very early in Cretan painting. Although these elements could be considered as an echo of the revival of classical education in the Palaiologan era, they are at the same time elements imported from analogous bucolic landscapes that are encountered in fifteenth-century Italian painting, as is usual in other Cretan icons circa 1500, such as in the Nativity in Venice and in the Byzantine Museum, Athens, and in icons with the subject of the Dormition of ascetics.

The icon is an excellent work, an example of the eclecticism of Cretan painters in the late fifteenth century.

Chatzidakis N. 2007. Catalogue no. 132, in Skampavias K.—Chatzidakis N. (eds), Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos Museum.Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art, Athens, 194-197.