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 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.
|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…”
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.
|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….
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.