English School , Late Sixteenth Century
The profile of Christ in the emerald would have been considered to be a life portrait, just as the images of Christ and his apostles in Byzantine mosaics were also believed to be exact representations...
The emerald was one of several holy objects sent to Pope Innocent VIII in the 1490s by the 'Great Turk', Bajazet, Sultan of the
The inscriptions traditional on these panels show that within a comparatively short space of time the original story had become confused. All known examples suggest a more humanitarian motive for the gifts, and as here the purpose is to 'redeme' the Sultan's brother. An early version in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery compounds the error by suggesting that Dschem's son was the Pope's prisoner.
When this icon was first produced in
With the Protestant Reformation of the 1530s, and the continued suppression and persecution of Catholics in this country throughout the rest of the century, it is easy to see how a secret religion might make use of such portable and private images as these.