This hagiographic icon is a depiction of Elijah and recalls his retreat into the desert, with scenes from his life displayed in two horizontal borders positioned at the top and bottom of the icon.

The central scene appears to identify Elijah as both a hermit and a prophet. He is resting his inclined head on his right fist in a meditative attitude tinged with melancholy.  He is gazing at the two ravens which bring him bread (held here by the first bird, perched on the rock) and meat (held by the second, still in flight) every day, during a retreat into the desert near Jordan inspired by God (1 Kings 17, 6). The cave behind him is reminiscent of the cave in Mount Horeb where God revealed himself to him, and the scroll which he holds in his left hand bears a quote from this episode (1 Kings 19,10). Two separate moments from Elijah's life are thus united in one image, in an abolition of chronological time which is typically Byzantine.

The upper and lower strips depict scenes which are specifically narrative, and strongly marked by an Italian influence which can be seen in the perspective, architecture and landscapes. At the top, from left to right: Elijah and the widow (1 Kings 17,8-6); Elijah reviving the widow’s child (1 Kings 17, 17-24); the sacrifice on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18, 20-40). At the bottom, from left to right: an angel comforting Elijah (1 Kings 19, 5-8), the sharing and crossing of the waters with Elisha, a disciple and prophet (2 Kings 2, 8) and, finally, the famous lifting up of Elijah in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2, 11-14).

R. Z.

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