In every icon, Christ is the center and the subject. Careful observing makes that very clear in this icon, Our Lady of Korsun, which is my favorite image to pray with. I love the tender, pensive sorrow of the expression and gesture of the Theotokos, the reassuring blessing and comfort of the Lord. The image glows with love and compassion. Dating back to the 16th Century, this icon was used for household devotions rather than formal church liturgy.
At first glance, it might appear that this icon is about Mary, the Mother of God. After all, the figure of Mary is much larger, and her face is the literal center point of the icon. However, every element of the composition points to the Child Jesus as the true center, the focal point, the main focus of this icon. Our eyes naturally follow along lines, and both line–and color– draw our eyes to the Face of God.
Mary’s entire head inclines towards the Christ Child. Her right hand points to Him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The angle of her lips and eyes are towards Him, as is the line of her chin.
The outline of Mary’s headscarf, and the dark lines within it, draw the eye from the lower left corner up and over towards the Child. The outline of her halo likewise leads to the Child. The gold trim of her scarf zig-zags up and around towards Him, thinner edge lines at each fold of the trim also direct the eye that direction. The part of her dark colored sleeve on her left hand forms a point leading towards Jesus, as does the sweep of His own sleeve. Even the partially shown cross inscribed on His own halo points towards Him. The gold trim at her throat swoops in a gentle curve in His direction, the lines joining with the hand to point to the Lord.
There is a cluster of details among the simpler larger shapes: Jesus’ curls, her fingers, His small hand raised in blessing. The complexity of the details draws the viewer’s eye from the large simple areas to His face. Even the two saints that I added in the border bow to Him.
The colors lead the eye to Jesus as well. The bright white of his garment serves to attract the eye to Him. The darker reds of Mary’s garments form large shapes which flow towards and point to Him. The brightness of gold encircles him. There is no doubt whom this icon is intended to venerate.