Orthodox icon | Easter | Christ’s Resurrection & Descent | 24690.
This is an extraordinary, museum-quality icon of remarkable preservation and intricate detail. Written in the painting village of Palekh.
The depiction revolves around the theme of Easter, specifically Christ’s resurrection and descent into the realm of the dead, known as Hades. At the top left, we see the crucifixion, where the apostle Thomas finds faith, and Peter discovers the empty tomb.
In the center, Jesus rises from the grave, guarded by soldiers. Adjacent to it, we witness Jesus’ encounter with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Beneath the central scene, Jesus stands triumphantly on the gates of the underworld, liberating Adam and Eve from the clutches of death, alongside other righteous figures from the Old Testament.
On the left side, angels subdue the devil, while two devils can be seen at the gates of the underworld. Accompanied by angels, the righteous enter paradise, guided by John the Baptist and the repentant thief. In the bottom right, Jesus rescues Peter as he walks on water, saving him from drowning.
About the orthodox Easter depiction:
It’s important to note that the expression “descent into hell” is commonly used, but it does not align with the teachings of Christian creeds. Instead, it signifies Christ’s descent into Hades, the underworld or realm of the dead. According to apocryphal Gospels, which influenced icon painters, this descent is portrayed in a dramatic manner.
Emerging from a majestic halo, the resurrected Christ shatters the gates of Hades, accompanied by disciples, John the Baptist, and prophets from the Old Covenant. With a gesture of authority, he liberates Adam and Eve from their tombs, symbolizing the redemption of all humanity.
Within the realm of the dead, angels torment death and the devil for eternity. Even today, the Orthodox community reenacts this descent of Christ through a solemn procession within a darkened church. Accompanied by joyful shouts proclaiming, “Christ has risen from the dead. He has truly risen,” such Easter hymns in the Eastern Church beautifully depict the “Anastasis” (Greek for “resurrection”) and, consequently, the Easter icon itself.