In the Virgin Hodegetria type the Virgin
Mary holds Christ on her left arm
and gestures toward him with the elongated fingers of her right hand,
showing that he is the way
to salvation, while he raises his right hand in a gesture of blessing.
(The index and middle fingers are joined to refer to the two natures of
Christ, and the thumb locks over the other fingers to signify the
Trinity.) The name Hodegetria ("The Wayshower") refers to the Hodegon
Constantinople, which has such an icon.
Typical features of the Hodegetria include
the starburst on one or both shoulders and on the part of the blue
mantle that covers the forehead. The fringe on the mantle indicates
imperial status, as does the throne that is occasionally included in
the image. The Virgin Mary's frontal gaze is also a key feature
of the Hodegetria type.
The odd letters on the left and right and
level with the top of the Virgin's head appear to be an adaptation of
the usual inscription that occupies this position in other Hodegetrias:
"MP θY" -- the first and last Greek letters of
the Greek words for "Mother of God."
More of the Virgin and Child