Holy Week, Pascha and Icons

Hand painted icon of The Myrrh-Bearing Women - egg tempera on wood, oil gilded

Holy Week and Easter is without a doubt a very eventful time in the Liturgical year and particularly rich in images. Our journey through the events of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection is a time of prayerful focus and intense contemplation. Before taking you on a journey through the Orthodox Church’s Holy Week, accompanied by icons, I would like to explore very briefly what icons are.

Orthodox Christian churches are usually filled with images painted on the walls or wooden panels. Additionally, we place icons of the feast or saints commemorated on a given day in the centre of the church. Biblical events (or holy people) are brought vividly before our eyes. However, an icon does not represent an eyewitness reconstruction of events, neither is it a photographic record of what a particular saint looked like. Looking at an icon, we become aware that what we are gazing at is not of this world.

Saint John the Forerunner

Tamara Penwell's icon of Saint John the Forerunner

Also known as St John the Baptist. One of the most intriguing and enigmatic characters in the Bible and a fascinating subject to paint. About St John the Forerunner there are more questions than answers. He is known as “The friend of the Bridegroom”, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness”, “the witness who […]

Mother of God of Tender Compassion – 20cm x 25cm – £550

Tamara Penwell's icon of The Mother of God of Tender Compassion

This icon of the Mother of God is of the Eleousa type, meaning Tenderness. These icons emphasize Christ’s humanity and closeness to his mother. Mary is seen in the same colours as Christ Pantocrator except the other way round, ie. the red outer garment and blue under garment. By using blue we do not ascribe […]

St John of Shanghai and San Francisco (1896- 1966)

Tamara Penwell's icon of Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco

If, like myself you ever had difficulty finding miracles in modern-day life you ought to get acquainted with St John Maximovitch the Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco, the Wonderworker. Of a very small stature, not much bigger than a child, and looking not a little like a garden gnome, in every other way than […]

Saint Anna, the mother of Mary

Tamara Penwell's icon of Saint Anna the mother of Mary

“The Grandmother of God” is not a title formally applied by the Christian Church to Saint Anna, the mother of Mary (the Mother of God – Theotokos). However, that is effectively what she was. Jesus, the Incarnate God had human ancestors, uncles, aunts and cousins, some of whom are mentioned in the Gospels. Canonical Gospels […]

The New Martyr Elizabeth

Tamara Penwell's icon of The New Martyr Elizabeth

Elizabeth (Ella) was the daughter of Princess Alice of Hesse and the favourite granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Ella married the Grand Duke Serge of Russia. Her sister Alexandra was the last Tzarina of Russia, the wife of Tzar Nicholas II. After the assassination of her husband in February 1905 Elizabeth became a nun. She bought […]

Archangel Gabriel – 11.5cm x 14.5cm – £260

Tamara Penwell's icon of The Archangel Gabriel

One of the seven archangels. Gabriel is the messenger of God, the Archangel of good news, new beginnings and strength (his name is translated “God is my strength”). He brought the news of the birth of the Messiah to Mary, and also announced the birth of John the Baptist to Elizabeth and Zachariah. As he […]

Icons of the Guardian Angels

Hand painted icon of Guardian Angel - egg tempera on wood

Angels are probably my favourite subject. Depicting angels as winged creatures may have originated from the images of the ancient Greek goddess of victory, Nike. In early Christian icons angels are shown giving the martyrs their crowns, laurel wreaths or palm branches, symbolising victory. In traditional Christian iconography angels are never depicted as frolicking, dimpled […]

St John the Evangelist (the Theologian)

Hand painted icon of Saint John the Evangelist - egg tempera on wood - egg tempura on wood

One of the twelve apostles “the disciple that Jesus loved”, writer of the fourth Gospel, two Epistles and the book of Revelation is seen here with an open book showing the words of 1 John 4;7. Behind his left shoulder is an angel whispering in his ear. In architectural iconography the four evangelists are depicted […]