Private Collection, USA
The term Epitaphios Threnos (Greek for a Funeral Song) or Plaščanica (Russian for a shroud) describes a liturgical fabric with the motive of Christ's entombment. It symbolises the grave of Christ and is carried on Good Friday from the sanctuary to the nave of the church and put down in front of the Iconostases. In the Easter vigil it is placed on the altar where it will stay until Ascension Day.
The embroidery shows the deposition from the cross and the grief for Christ. In the background the Mother of God and Joseph of Arimathea hold the upper body of the crucified Christ, whilst Nikodemus pulls out the nails from Christ's feet with tongs. The scene is flanked by two angels who are presenting the instruments of the Passion (on the left most likely originally the cross, on the right the holy sponge set on a reed, with which gall and vinegar were offered to Jesus and the holy lance with which a Roman soldier inflicted the final of the five wounds in his side.
In the upper corner of the fabric a personification of the sun and moon can be found, resembling the cosmic forces which mourn the death of Christ.
In the foreground the motive transfers to the Lamentation of Christ. Whilst Joseph of Arimathea and Nikodemus prepare the corpse for the entombment, the Mother of God is sitting on a throne leaning over Christ, mourning for her son. On the opposite side, the apostle John touches Christ's feet with his hands reverentially covered. Amongst the other witnesses of the Lamentation of Christ are the two Marias who have arrived for the anointing of the corpse. On the right-hand side stands Longinus the Roman Captain who, according to the legend, pierced the side of the Saviour with his spear. He is depicted as a proselyte who proclaims Christ as the true son of god. Four angels carrying liturgical fans are approaching the corpse. Such fronds of birds' feathers were particularly important in the ancient world to show one's obeisance towards the emperor.
All the figures are identifiable with Cyrillic addendums. Originally the whole fabric was encircled by a line of a liturgical text. However, the border was damaged and the fabric was applied onto a new textile.
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