Icon “Descent into Hell” by Dionysius: plot, meanings of images
The famous icon “Descent into Hell” refers us to one of the most significant events for Orthodox Christians – the Resurrection of Christ. The plot depicted on the icon is based on a story told by one of the apostles, Peter. There are other passages in the Bible that may have inspired Dionysius to create an icon. For example, the Psalter or prophecies.
The images embodied in the artistic work of Dionysius directly echo the chants that can be heard during the Easter service in all Orthodox churches. In the center of the complex composition, the figure of Jesus Christ, dressed in the golden robes of the winner, stands out.
On the sides of Christ are surrounded by prophets. You can also see the battle between angels and demons. This symbolizes the war in the spirit world for every human soul.
Under the feet of the Son of God is the opened cave of hell. There are demons in it, their silhouettes are somewhat reminiscent of gray misty clouds. The main idea of the icon is that Jesus conquered hell and death and saved those who believe in Him.
The plot of the icon tells us how Christ, after His death, went to the underworld in order to save the Old Testament righteous, to free them from the shackles.
It is not for nothing that the icon is highly valued by Christians and highly revered in the Orthodox canon.
It is believed that “Descent into Hell” was written by the famous icon painter Dionysius. He belongs to the successors of the traditions of Andrei Rublev. He became famous for his paintings of Moscow churches and the creation of iconostases. Several icons created by him have survived, including the Descent into Hell. You can see this masterpiece of icon painting in St. Petersburg, in the Russian Museum.