“Virgin Galaktotrophousa, engraved copper plate, Gabriel of Skopelos, Mount Athos, 1871.
This Greek icon is exceptional for the wealth of information its inscriptions provide. The medallions identify Mary as H MHTHR QEOU (“The Mother of God”), while the epithet GALAKTOTROFOUSA (“She who nourishes with milk”) appears just above the angels’ inner hands. Surrounding its decorative frame is a longer liturgical text, which also directly addresses the Virgin. This brief prayer was incorporated into a number of Greek Orthodox rites. St. John Chrysostom associated the suckling of Christ with the Incarnation, while St. Clement of Alexandria drew a parallel between the Virgin’s milk and the blood of Christ.