Saturday, February 24, 2007

Icon - Elijah and the fiery chariot

I put a link at the side for our friend,Tatiana Vartanova, an icon-painter and restorer. We have 5 icons by her, and she restored an old one we had that had both lost a lot of paint, and become infested with termites, to the point it broke in half! Here is one of her icons, which we commissioned: Elijah riding to heaven in the fiery chariotThere are different versions of this scene, but I saw a picture of an old one with this particular design, and asked her to model the icon on that. I particularly liked the "fireball" carrying Elijah off, and Elisha at the side catching Elijah's cloak. It just makes the whole picture very dynamic, somehow. Here are some details:

This shows the time in Elijah's life when he retreated to a cave in the mountains, and the Word of God came to him:At first sight, that looks like an angel, but then you see there are no wings, and angels always have wings. So this is the Word of God, and you see the mountain peak behind him, which makes us think of going up into the high places to seek God, as Moses and Jesus did. It's a bit like gothic spires in western cathedrals, reaching up towards holiness.

We love icons, even though we're not Orthodox. There's just something mysterious and wonderful about them.


Blogger Nicholodeon said...

For Sunday, 12/25 February, Triumph of Orthodoxy.

How beautiful to post the icons on this day where we Orthodox commemorate defeat of the Iconoclasts and restoration of Icons to The Church. The Elijah you show is splendid.

I learned the art of icon 'writing' in egg tempera from Fr John, in the Novgorod style.

Unusual for a woman (your friend Tatiana) who is not a nun to be producing icons, and I am not sure she indicates any where if she is Orthodox. But the end result is magnificent.

Yesterday I listened to the uproar from the NY Met, 'Evgenii Onegin' and remembered, Esteemed Doctor, that you had an ear problem which I hope is resolving.

The Elijah you have is masterful. His day is 20 Jul (o.s.) 02 August (n.s.).

4:14 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Dean was very excited when I told him what feast day this was in the Orthodox Church! He has a great interest in Byzantine history; we got shelves of books on the Emperors and the early Church, and is very informed about the Iconoclasts and the Iconodules. It's interesting that that controversy never arose in the Russian Orthodox Church - I guess it had long been settled by the time missionaries arrived in the north.

Tatiana is very Orthodox, though not a nun. I'll have to see if I can find some more of her history to post here; I recall our paper did a story about her a few years ago. She wanted to write icons from a very young age, and even started as a child, just using ordinary paint, and without instruction. This was during the Soviet era, so it wasn't an interest that you advertised. I remember that when she was a student, she and a friend started secretly restoring an abandoned church out in the country, sneaking supplies in with the help of a priest. When she immigrated to Canada, it was not as a refugee, but under a very rare clause of our Immigration Law, as a "cultural treasure", because her skills are so unusual, and while Russia was communist, it was so difficult for her to work.

My ear is improving, thanks. I'll be seeing the doctor on Tuesday. I heard a little of 'Evgenii Onegin' on Saturday, but it's still hard for me to listen when I don't understand the language. Maybe in a few more weeks.

10:32 pm  

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