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For the city on the Black Sea coast of Turkey, see Rizemarker
Riza removed from its icon.

A riza (Russian: риза, "robe") or oklad (оклад, "covered"), sometimes called a "revetment" in English, is a metal cover protecting an icon. It is usually made of gilt or silvered metal with ornate bas relief technique. It is sometimes enameled, filigreed, or set with artificial, semi-precious or even precious stones and pearls. Although the practice of using rizas originated in Byzantine art, the Russian term is often applied to Greek icons; in Greek the term is επένδυση ("coating"), and icons are described as επάργυρες or επίχρυσες - silver-covered and gold-covered, respectively.

The purpose of a riza is to show honour and veneration to an icon, and ultimately to Jesus or the saint depicted on it (the prototype). Because candles and lampadas (oil lamps) are burned in front of icons, and incense is used during services, icons can become darkened over time. The riza helps protect the icon.

A riza is designed specifically for the icon it is to cover. It leaves open spaces where the face, hands, and feet of the icon's subject can be seen. The halo on rizas are often more elaborate than on the original icons. Rizas for icons of the Theotokos (Mother of God) often have a crown on them. The robes worn by the subjects often are adorned with pearls or jewels. Usually a riza covers the entire surface of the icon except for the face and hands, but sometimes, especially in older specimens, the riza covers only the halo, called a venets. Sometimes the riza included a stylized torc or gorget (neck ring), called a tsata in Russian.

Some icons, especially late Byzantine ones, were designed with a riza from their first painting. Only the areas not covered by the riza were painted.


  1. Colin Harrison, Catherine Casley, Jon Whiteley, The Ashmolean Museum: complete illustrated catalogue of paintings, Oxford: University of Oxford, 2004, accessed 21 Sep 2009. See St. Nicolas icon
  2. See the example at bottom right in the Ashmolean Museum catalogue link below

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