● Name means: “God is with us”
The Emmanuel icon holds a rare and intriguing history dating back to the prophecy of the
prophet Isaiah (7:14) in the 12th century. The prophecy stated that “the Lord will give you a sign
of his own accord: Behold, the virgin will conceive a child, she will give birth to a son, and she
will call his name Immanuel.” The Emmanuel iconography arose as a visual representation of
this prophecy, depicting both the pre-existence and eternal being of the Word of God before its
incarnation, and its existence after incarnation.
Early Byzantine art was reluctant to depict Emmanuel as a child, instead choosing to present an
image similar to that of the “Ancient of Days.” However, in icon painting, Emmanuel is often
depicted as a boy with senile features drawn from ancient and non-evangelical models of the
so-called “aged child” (Greek “paidariogeron”). This design often includes a humped and
protruding forehead, under which the serious eyes of an adult gaze at the praying person.
Emmanuel alone is often portrayed in a round shield (lat. “clipeus”) or medallion, where he
plays a crucial symbolical role in specific representations of the Mother of God as an
embodiment of the eternal Word of God.
The Emmanuel icon, although culturally significant, is restricted to the Eastern Church and its
influence. Its iconography was essential in symbolizing the fulfillment of the prophecy of the
Virgin conception and emphasizing the eternal significance of the Word of God. Overall, the
Emmanuel icon is a fascinating representation of religious prophecy and artistic expression.