The transfiguration of Jesus Christ

Icon painting

The transfiguration of Jesus Christ (1)

Iconographer Liviu Dumitrescu
Iconographer Liviu Dumitrescu

Christ is the centre and focus of the image, his hand held in a blessing, eyes directed at us. His clothes are depicted “white as light” as the Gospel writers describe, and the glory of God overshadowing the scene is shown by the mandorla around his body.

The transfiguration of Jesus Christ (5)

From His body, The transfiguration of Jesus Christ (6)shafts of light are shown striking each of the five others present: to Christ’s right, the Prophet Elijah; to His left Moses; scattered about His feet, the Apostles John, Peter, and James.

The mountain on which the Transfiguration took place is identified by St Jerome as Mount Tabor. The mountain plays an important part in divine revelation, as described by Scriptures, and links Moses and Elijah who are miraculously present by Christ’s side. Moses ascended Mt Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments and converse with God in a great cloud of divine glory (Ex. 24:12-18; Ex. 33:11-23; 34:4-6,8). Elijah was told to ascend Mt Horeb(probably an alternative name for Sinai) where he heard the voice of God in the “gentle breeze”.

The Gospel accounts (Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2–8, Luke 9:28–36) describe the disciples as “sore afraid”, but also as initially “heavy with sleep”, and waking to see Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah, and emitting a bright light. The disciples are usually shown in a mixture of prostrate, kneeling, or reeling poses which are dramatic and ambitious by medieval standards and give the scene much of its impact. Sometimes all appear awake, which is normal in the East, but in western depictions sometimes some or even all appear asleep; when faces are hidden, as they often are, it is not always possible to tell which is intended.

Iconographer Liviu Dumitrescu

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