The Khakhuli Icon (8-12th century)

In the feudal epoch the art of Georgian goldsmiths reached the peak of artistic mastery. This ancient art traversed a complicated path of evolution, every stage of which, whether coinciding with a period of florescence, or one decline, set itself its own artistic tasks.

Having emerged in Georgian goldsmith's work during the Middle ages, the decorative trend mentioned above was powerfully manifested at the peak of feodal times, during the reigns of King David the Builder and his son Demetre I, when Georgia strove for the unification of the Transcaucasus.

It was then that the repousse triptych of the Khakhuli Virgin was created.

The triptych, kept since 1952 in the treasury of the Georgian State Museum of Fine Art, derives its name from Khakhuli Monastery in Tao, one of Georgia's ancient provinces, where it was originally kept. In the 12th century David the Builder (1089-1125) had the already famous Khakhuli icon, believed to be miracle-working, conveyed to the Monastery at Gelati, where a new repousse case was made for it. The lateral penels of the triptych encased in repousse silverwork were left in their original form as remarkable speciens of the 10th cetury toreutics, while the rest of the icon was adorned anew with gold, silver, cloisonne enamels and precious stones.

The central part of the triptych, the representation of the Khakhuli Virgin, was originally an icon of preciousse metal; the face and hands of the Virgin were in cloisonne enamel. The repousse background is now lost, while the face and hands, brilliant examples of Georgian cloisonne enamel, are today fixed in the central part of the icon.

The decor of the the central part of the Khakhuli triptych and the reverse of the lateral panels were done by different masters. The central part, of pure gold, is adorned with a floral design in low relief. The convolutions, rather large at the bottom, grow gradually smaller towards the top of the panels and form a carpet-like pattern covering the whole of the area. The central part is set off by an arch,-an organizing element, at the top. THis impression is enhanced by a semi-oval ornamental band adorned with cloisonne medallions and precious stones on both sides of the image.

In contradistinction to the central part, the decor of the lateral panels is executed in a somewhat higher relief. The goldsmiths must have determined where the cloisonne medallions and precious stons were to be set over the whole surface of the icon.

The Khakhuli triptych is a brilliant example of artistic metalwork in feudal Georgia, fully conforming to the epoch in which the idea of its creation was conceived and materialized.

The Khakhuli triptych
The Khakhuli icon of the Virgin. Detail 
The Apostles 
Emperor Michael VII Ducas and Empress Mary 
The Decorative Cross With St.Paul 
The Plaque representing Christ Seating on the Rainbow 
The Big Decorative Cross 
The Virgin Before a Cypress 
Triangles with Heart-Shaped Pattern Enclosing Flowers 
The Plaque Representing Saint Basil 
Three Square Figures With Ornament 
The Plaque Representing Saint Theodore 
The Decorative Cross 
Created by Lika Mamulashvili