Presentation on theme: "Saint Ephrem in the Christian Iconography Abdo Badwi Stokholm 2006."— Presentation transcript:
Saint Ephrem in the Christian Iconography Abdo Badwi Stokholm 2006
Iconography of Saint Ephrem The image of Saint Ephrem or his icon through the history of Christianity is rare, especially in his church the Syriac Church. If we look over the miniatures in manuscripts or some paintings we find two or three iconographical themes adapted for Christian Iconography.
1-Saint Ephrem as a monk and his relation with the monastical life (Byzantine tradition). We have two famous types of this tradition, Ephrem as a monk (Sinai icon of the 9 th century) and what is called the icon of the Dormition of Saint Ephrem (Different icons) The famous icon of Sinai of the 9 th century is a Greek Byzantine quadripartite icon. It represents in the upper part Saint Thaddeus the Apostle and Hanania offering the Mandylion to Abgar Oukama king of Edessa. In the lower level are represented, Saint Anthony of the Desert with another hermit, and Saint Basil with Saint Ephrem. In this icon the history of Christianity in Edessa is linked to the history of Monastic life and Ephrem is as one of the founders of the Syriac monastic life PIERRE DU BOURGUET, PEINTURES CHRETIENNES, P EDIT. FAMOT, Genève 1980.
Saint Ephrem is painted standing wearing a long tunica covered by a mantel (Himation) without the Skema on his head. The color of the dress is a Sienna (raw and burned). He handles in his right hand a scroll or a part of the (diakonia orarion). The left hand is damaged and we distinguish probably a censor. His face with open round eyes, a short white beard and a bald head give us a typical Middle Eastern look. His name is written behind him in Greek( ).
The second monastic representation known by the Dormition of Ephrem is spread out in the Byzantino-slavic world. We present in our lecture one icon of this prototype: Histoire des Saints et de la Sainteté, Tome III,, André Mandouze, P.41, Hachette1987.
The prototype of this icon is taken from the Dormition of Our Lady. In this last one all the Apostles are gathered from all over the world around the bed of Our Lady in a farwell meeting before she goes to Her Son. In the same way, Saint Ephrem is wrapped with his monastic dress holding the Book on his chest laying on his death bed, surrounded by many of the Fathers of the Church and the famous monastic life founders. We recognize among them Gerasimos on his lion, Simeon on his pilar, the different anachorites in their caves and grottos. All kinds of monastic ways of life are gathered around him. This icon is a kind of apotheosis of the monastical life around the end of the fourth century (Saint Ephrem died in 373). As an iconographic art, this icon is considered as a Byzantine style of the XVIth century. This icon evokes the heroic times of the monastic life still alive and active in the Christian Orient. The Dormition of Saint Ephrem is considered as a rebirth.
2-Saint Ephrem represented as a poet and his relation with the Holy Spirit his isnpirer. Going back to the Syriac world and tradition, the most ancient iconography is a miniature in a syriac manuscript from the XIIth century, (Library of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, Damascus), representing Ephrem standing in an edicola reminding us the Rabbulean and the Armenian manuscripts arches. He is painted in a graphic way inside the edicola with open curtains or veils. His skema reminds us the Armenian Figar more than the Syriac Skema Mahmoud ZIBAWI, EASTERN CHRISTIAN WORLDS, p.69,The Liturgical Press, Collegville, Minnesota 1995
Beside this miniature we have a lot of non iconographical art going from the post Rennaissance Western Art imported from Europe (Especially Italy), through a local art in Lebanon and Syria till a Naïf popular art in Tur Aabdin and Upper Mesopotamia. The most known one is the painting in Saint Paul Syriac Catholic Church in Damascus, in which the saint is standing wearing a skema between the Byzantine style and the syriac-maronite one with the distinctive small cross on the front. The mantel reminds the himation more than the traditional jibbeh or mashlah of oriental monks and clergy especially in the syriac tradition. He holds in his wright hand a scroll with the famous syriac apophtegma attributed to him (negoun garmay men qabro dAloho yoldat maryam) translated: My bones from the tomb shout Mary is the Mother of God. This text is often written in Arabic or in greek Mar Estathios Youssef Al-Munayer, Mar Afrem fi Souar, (Arabic), Damascus 2003
3-Saint Ephrem and the Mother of God the Virgin Mary. Another theme very common is the representation of Saint Ephrem with the Mother of God. A typical one of this kind is the main altar painting of Our Lady of Charfeh in Lebanon. Saint Ephrem is represented with Saint Ignatius of Antioch as the two patrons of the Syrian Catholic Church, kneeling in a supplication act in front of the Mother of God. The painting is totally western post Renaissance Art from 19 th century.
4-Other painting representing Saint Ephrem: Many other iconographical themes represent Saint Ephrem as the Harp of The Holy Spirit :
and others putting together all these themes mentioned above with the theme of vine tree in accord with the famous dream of Ephrem in which he saw himself as a child and a vine tree is growing out of his tongue and bearing a lot of grapes. Chappel of Charfeh
Saint Ephrem with the Vine Tree, the Dove of the Holy Spirit and The Blessed Mother Ephremite Sisters Chapel, Charfeh (P.Abdo Badwi)
In the Tur Aabdin in Turkey, we find a lot of Naïf representation of Saint Ephrem, painted or embroidered: Saint Ephrem, popular naïf Art, Dyar Bakir and Mardin.
In our contemporary time we can show two well known paintings of Saint Ephrem, A modern painting of the famous Syrian artist Elias Zayyat, in the Patriarchal Syrian Orthodox Seminary in Maarrat Saydnaya, Syria.
This painting reminds us the colors of Kandinsky and the compositions of Marc Chagall. He is seating in a semi desertic landscape wearing a dark blue tunica like the Greek orthodox clergy, the skema of the syriac orthodox monks and a camel brown hair color aabaya of the Middle East. He holds in the left hand an opened scroll and lifting the right hand toward an angel offering him a vine branch with grapes. Near him a vase with two doves a common theme in the 6 th century mosaics of Syria that we find in Ravenna also.
The other one is a new icon done by ourself in the collection of the new icons for the Maronite Church diffused by the Department of Sacred Art of the University of the Holy Spirit Kaslik Lebanon.
An etching picture of Saint Ephrem, 18th century, Western Art.
A popular painting of Saint Ephrem, with the Vine Tree, the Dove of the Holy Spirit and Angels holding the scrolls of his teaching. Syrian Orthodox Bishop Palace, Aleppo, Syria.