Embracing, Saints Joachim and Anna

A heart -shaped slice of birch wood-  and the haloes of Sts Joachim and Anne merged as to form an actual heart after their embrace.
A very pious couple and a couple that loved each other dearly for many – many years. Our sources (mostly the Protoevangellion of James, a text that belongs in the Apocrypha ) tell us that both were especially tormented for being childless so,  St Anna at the news that she was with child: “…saw Joachim coming, and she ran and hung upon his neck…”

That is exactly the moment that this icon pictures, being a study from an older work made by an unknown master from of the 16th century, found in Sofia.

The use of a very bold, almost “explosive” red on the garments of Hannah, and the lines of the painting were ideal  in communicating  all this unexpected joy, all this energy gathered after countless years of longing and show it in this icon.

Protecting the world over the clouds- Skepe or Panaghia Nefeli

A custom order for a Nefeli a very pretty Greek name, denoting cloud or better cloud formation.  was one of the Hymns for the Virgin Mary that caught my attention- It somehow translates like: (Rejoice Oh) Cloud most bright that overshadows (shelters) all faithful, and it is only one of the occasions where the Holy mother is called “Nefeli”.


Theotokos in the clouds, Aghia Skepi first drawing
Folk like icon of the Virgin Mary

The Aghia Skepe, is equally important to Russians and other eastern orthodox people celebrated in the feast of Pokrov  and I imagined a russian “Matryoska”-like Virgin Mary, in bright colors, that shelters and embraces all faithful.

Feast of the Protection of Theotokos- Aghia Skepe or Pokrova icon

 I did the painting in a thin panel, using acrylics for the cloud background and egg tempera for the figure of the Holy Mother. Finally the colors were covered with shellac and sealed with resin varnish.


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 orthodxwiki.org:

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…”

In a black background- Holy Mother; Annunciation in purple and black

There is this feeling, you enter a in a church, (maybe in the countryside somewhere  in a small village) and the evening mass has started.-A traditional mass where there are no lights, only the small flames of the candles,

So among the fumes of the incense, the little bells, and the chants, images of Saints (written in dark backgrounds) are emerging from the walls lighted up by their halos, leaning towards you. And then Her figure in the front- She is always there, Open to you, ever forgiving, radiant with love. The Mother.

Holy Mother in black background
Virgin Mary in Annunciation -Size 5.5″ x 7″ (14cm x 18 cm)

“..Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word..” KJV, Lk 1:38. Says the icon; It is the Virgin Mary in  a part of a larger synthesis depicting her Annunciation.

Eka interpreted this theme, painting Mother Mary, Panagia (Pan-Aghia – All Holy- the word for Her in Greek) using more dark colors, trying to catch the sentiment I just tried to describe….

Sorrow when painting- a custom order to deal with sorrow

Custom order and challenge are somehow synonymous, but somehow dealing with the extremeness of sorrow that the theme of Lamentation of Christ presents as a painting- is somehow more than challenging.

I was initially handed with a picture, looking like a photo and was asked to paint the person portrayed there, as the Christ, after descending from the cross.
It was almost impossible for me to picture a person dead, alone by itself in a picture, as a corpse in a cold- cold morgue. It made me feel a sence of disrespect for the person portrayed. It somehow seemed as blasphymous, for I intended to portray the Son of man

Then all issues of position, surroundings, colours, symboslism emerged- What would be the size, who would be with him, expressions, reactions, symbolism.

Again a piece of driftwood came to the rescue that could host- two faces. Then the image of lamentation was revealed in the wooden surface. Lamentation is actually the greek Epitaph. A procession of the orthodox church in Good Friday, that brings the sorrow the passions of Christ to its ultimate point. To its climax.

Christ could never be represented as a disrespected corpse. Only as peson much loved -as he did with us all – by his mother. In this icon Virgin Mary embodies all mothers losing their offsprings, all people left behind, all women, even nature. All the sorrow in the world.

And that what is making Lamentation, or Pieta as it is widely known,  the most powerfull form of all the representations of Christ from the Descent from the cross – to the Entombement.
And so hard to paint.
And so liberating.