Image permission and credit: Saint Bavo Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium
The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb is presided over by the figure of God (the bearded Jesus with crown and scepter, below).* This figure can also be read as Christ Pantokrator (one of the many names for God in the Jewish tradition and, in the Bible, an appellation used only by John the Baptist to describe God), flanked by separate panels of John the Baptist to the right and the Virgin Mary to the left (below). The combination of these three figures reminds us of a Byzantine image type—the Deësis (from the Greek, “prayer”), which shows the intercession of the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist for the salvation of our souls, the heavenly interview at the moment of the Last Judgement (an example of a Byzantine Deësis, Byzantine art refers to art from the Byzantine or Eastern Roman empire).
In The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, the sacrifice of the lamb, symbol of Christ’s slaughter for our salvation, is similarly Byzantine in origin.