Byzantine art and expressionism

The art of the byzantine icons’ painting , an art form that  was expressionism centuries (maybe a millennium) before expressionism /symbolism or surrealism ever even existed. Some of the characteristic elements of this painting “genre” that point towards this direction are:

-The main figure/ feature Enlightened being -The saint, the Saviour or the Holy Mother) is bigger that anything else in the icon
You can see saints in the background that are bigger than the ones in foreground- You can see Saints on horses that are equal in size with the animal. Proportions in general are based on priority that is a sort of unrealism: But then again, we we seek meaning

-The background too- it may be buildings (which are always distorted or proportionally wrong, rendered with  reverse or inverse perspective ) it may have rough mountains – but the main mentallity is that the background shows a distortion a lack of space or time. That is also why gold is used symbolizing enlightement, eternity, something infinite and eternal.

We speak by symbols. As we alter proportions in space we also alter facial features or body proportions in order to highlight a spiritual quality.
So that is why the ears are longer lips are thin, eyes are big, noses are way to long
and that is also why bodies are “bodiless” – There is no muscular tone, and certainly no curves 🙂
The body is just like a cloth of convenience that would soon be thrown away.
 Finally in byzantine painting we are speaking of , we are narrating (the first word in Greek for painting icons is historein which means sayng the history of) the story of another reality, one that is more real than this one we are living in.


Mikael Sjælevejeren- or a Danish Soul "weigher"

Archangel Michael holding a scale, taken by the most beautiful Danish fresco painting of “Mikael Sjælevejeren” found in Højby Kirke in Denmark. A combination of Northern european, medieval painting with a modern eye.

St Michael religious icon mixed technique on wood

After 3-4 weeks of wondering how am I going to paint temptation in St Michael’s kalkmaleri- yesterday I decided to skip the question all-together and just focus on what I know how to paint.

And then the rest was pretty easy cause I ve painted a miniature (less risk) – and then to compete with the very impressive feathers of the original I decided to use gold, then the highlights were certainly golden, and the colours were already found (from your welcoming committee) etc, etc

The icon has the proportions to be fitted in a 8×10 icon favor (as you can see in the final pic)


Touch me Not, an approach of Mi mou aptou or Noli me Tangere icon

Noli me tangere icon – 13×18 cm egg tempera on wood
Jesus said unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”(John 20:17)
The “Cretan” version of the “Mi mou aptou”, or Noli me tangere icon- The influence of this school (the Cretan School of iconography that flourished in my home town, Iraklion from 1400-1600) is evident in the bright colors chosen for the image and the long flowing hair of St Mary MagdaleneFor me it was a challenge to paint such a small version of the icon, to show all these mixed feelings in a beautiful woman with uncovered head – Plus my interpretation of the icon is that her head was uncovered as a sign of her grief and mourning.
The text written in Greek is “Mi mou aptou- (Touch me Not) ICXC and St Mary Magdalene and one more word: Rabboni, the single word that is uttered By St Mary, the moment she recognizes her Teacher.
Another version of Touch me Not orthodox icon

Finally, if you want to learn more about this unique orthodox icon you surely have to read a great article on its history and origins:

August’s Merominia

The days of “Merominia” are counting for these first days of August!- Merominia a tradition dating back from the beginning of time in Greece, involves weather prediction- for the whole year- by the observation and the interpretation of weather phenomena during the first twelve days of August, which are called “Merominia” – a name which derives from the Greek words Mera (Day) and Minas (Month). 

A beautiful chapel in Crete by

Each one of these twelve days corresponds to one of the following twelve months- Which one is today?
(The photo of the beautiful chapel in Crete by

The world of St Gregory the Theologian, byzantine book art

I find medieval art, and most of all the paintings found in old manuscripts, fascinating- After all, they are miniatures in paper created with a great amount of detail and craftsmanship.

St Gregory the Theologian

I ve imitated a representation such as this from an old byzantine manuscript,  using a hard white cardboard specially treated with glue and gesso to be hard and steady in order to be able to hang on the wall.

The icon represents the world of Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, with Christ the Savior and Mother Mary. St Gregory’s life’s work was tremendous and cannot praised better that in the hymns of the Church – I quote here the translation of his Apolytikion from

The Saint is otherwise known as St Gregory of Nazianzus

“…The pastoral flute of your theology conquered the trumpets of orators.
For it called upon the depths of the Spirit
and you were enriched with the beauty of words.
Intercede to Christ our God,
O Father Gregory, that our souls may be saved…”

One night in Heaven…

It is the story of one night in Paradise -and as proof of that, a branch of heavenly apples held by St Efrosynos,  patron Saint of the cooks commemorated today, September 11th.

St Efrosynos holding a branch of heavenly apples
St Efrosynos the cook, egg tempera on a canvas panel 4.88″ x 4.88″ (12.4 x12.4 cm)

A  very humble, scorned, ridiculed, unlettered man -the cook of a monastery in Greece that- “…gave the unfading radiance of his goodness and humility, and the miraculous apples, his gift of love…”.

In this icon we can see the Saint found, in the middle on the night, in the heavenly garden, being the guardian of the place and, holding a branch of heavenly apples.

Another version of Saint Efrosynos, patron of cooks in a golden background

I cannot describe the story better than Eva C. Topping (Sacred stories from Byzantium- by Holy Cross Orthodox Press). You may find this story marvelously narrated at