On Wednesday 12 February 2009, Dutch art dealer Michel van Rijn visited the office of the Representation of the Church of Cyprus to the European Union, where he handed over a Cypriot post-Byzantine Small Deisis icon to His Eminence Bishop Porphyrios of Neapolis. Mr van Rijn had recently purchased the icon from a London auction house with the aim of returning it to its rightful owner, the Church of Cyprus.
His Eminence thanked Mr van Rijn for his considerate gesture and expressed the wish that his example would be followed by others who possess Cypriot works of art and treasures illegally removed and exported from the occupied areas of Cyprus.
The post-Byzantine icon of the Small Deisis (53.5cm x 35cm) depicts an enthroned Christ giving a blessing with his right hand. In his left hand is an open gospel in which is written “Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God”. To the right of Christ stands the Virgin Mary with her hands in a position of prayer to the Saviour. Christ is dressed in a purple mantle decorated with plant motifs and a dark-green tunic richly decorated with gold highlights. The Virgin Mary is also depicted wearing a dark-green mantle with gold highlights and a purple tunic decorated with plant motifs. The halos of the figures have been created in relief. The icon is the work of iconographers of the Saint Herakleidios School, which flourished in Cyprus during the 18th and 19th centuries, who came from the eponymous monastery.
The icon, which was painted in the second half of the 18th century, has unfortunately been ‘dismembered’ since the figure of John the Baptist to the left of Christ has been expertly sliced off. Part of the lower section of the icon has also been removed, thereby amputating part of Christ’s feet.
The brutal abuse and destruction of the icon by illicit dealers is a clear indication of the continuing suffering and tragedy of occupied Cyprus.