Friday, September 05, 2014

Something old, something new


I've had a lovely day, two of my favourite people had a splendid wedding, very good and simple but you could feel their love. These are good people, I met their families for the first time, they were too were good and kind and loving. It is wonderful how goodness flows in families. Keep them in your prayers.

I 'acquired' some new members of the household too, this rather splendid icon of  S George. It is quite big, two foot high, it is obviously a 'Church' icon rather than a domestic one, possibly from the upper register of an iconastasis. It was probably sent to the west in the thirties from some despoiled church to buy grain It would have been stripped of its precious metal oklad and the halo, there are nails and minute traces of gilding, the beige areas would have been gilded but the gilding would have been damaged during this stripping, and it was fashionable in the west during that period to have icons which revealed the gesso ground. The little patch on the side is typical of better icons restored in the soviet workshops, it shows the un-restored state. It was offered for sale as 19/20th century but the craquelure and the discolouration of the un-restored portion as well as the limited palette of earth colours and viridian would indicate an earlier date, perhaps a century or more earlier.

I love the composition: the harmony of the rocks with the figure of S George, the sinuous form of the dragon, which could be inspired by an oriental vase, contrasts with the city; the balancing of shapes, the hand of God blessing from the quadrant of Heaven over S George, the darker portion of the world under the princesses feet and the city walls enclosing even the cathedral dome, all except the upper portion of the cross. What is so beautiful is the ethereal sketchy fluidity of the mounted saint and dragon contrasted with the heaviness of the painting of the city.

I am sure the painter wanted the viewer to compare and contrast the dynamic nature of the spiritual life and the heroic struggle against the dragon and the life of those enclosed in the niches and balconies of the coffin-like city fearing the dragon. It is visual theology: fear versus the freedom of the Sons of God.

(And all for less than a pilgrimage to Lourdes!)

12 comments:

gemoftheocean said...

What a beautiful thing!!! I've always had a fondness for St. George and his dragon. I was proposed to on St. George's day as well, which, I thought was a nice touch coming from an an Englishman.

umblepie said...


A lovely icon Father, and interesting history.Thanks for sharing.

John Vasc said...

It is certainly a rarely exquisite work. I love that green-glazed moulded tiling of the castellated city walls. Is the city perhaps meant to represent pre-conquest Constaninople? (Though the inscription looks more like Church-Slavonic than Greek.)
Btw, Sussex too has its St George traditions, Fr Ray. These lines are from an old Sussex Mummers' Play:
ENTER ST GEORGE
"In comes I, St George, [All cheer etc.]
That man of courage bold.
If any man's blood be hot,
I'll soon make it run cold.
I'll cut him up as small as flies,
And send him to the cook to make mince pies -
I fought the fiery dragon
And brought him to the slaughter
And by this means I won
The King of Egypt's daughter."

Joe Potillor said...

Thanks for sharing

Pablo the Mexican said...


Thank God it wound up in your hands...in America that would have been thrown in the trash by Novus Ordo she/males.

Some of us have literally rescued sacred objects such as that one from the trash.

A real thing of beauty is when everyone in a family loves God;Saint John Vianney has a sermon on families living under the crucifix.

NBW said...

It is very beautiful. I am glad the icon has found a new home. Thanks for sharing, Father.

Supertradmum said...

Thank you for sharing the icon. I prefer icons to statues and my little house had an icon wall when I had a house. To have a focus in a house where one can pray the rosary or even the Hours is a great blessing.

I love St.George as well and pray he continues to watch over England.

May the cross flag of St. George ever fly over that green and pleasant land.

As to witnessing holy families, yes I have seen this and what a blessing. Also, families where there are generations of priestly and religious vocations are such a blessing to the Church.

viterbo said...

"As for the Church, which has God Himself for its author, to exclude her from the active life of the nation, from the laws, the education of the young, the family, is to commit a great and pernicious error." Pope Saint Pius X.

I think families without God have a tendancy, like everything else, to fall apart; and then the Godless state steps in...

Icons seemed to me like little, or not so little, sanctuaries. I have a lovely little book called the 'The Mystical Language of Icons': "The icon is a holy object, the form being merely a receptacle for the content. And the content is determined by the Holy Scriptures and the Traditions of the Church. That is why the work process is marked more by discipline than by inspiration." I guess the inspiration is inherently in the discipline because it certainly shines forth.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Off the point but a genuine query!
Yesterday, Friday, was the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary. We duly had the collect, offertory etc from the Mass of that feast but the epistle, psalm and gospel were read from the Friday of the 23rd week. I found this rather disappointing as the readings for the feast are particularly beautiful and relevance. I have noticed this happening on other feast days. Is this correct or just some foible of where I go to Mass?

Fr Ray Blake said...

It is a "preferred" option, Nicholas

Nicolas Bellord said...

Is this "preferred option" laid down somewhere? It seems very odd to me. I cannot help feeling that we are losing touch with Holy Days and the Saints as a result of such options. Why prefer the readings of the Friday in the 23rd week to those celebrating a feast instituted to mark the defeat of the Muslim Turkish army at the gates of Vienna? Rather relevant these days!

Generally though I find that the Saints (the communion of Saints) tends to get increasingly ignored to-day. Ronald Knox reminds us that there are three communities - the Saints in Heaven, the Souls in Purgatory and us lot each helping each other. The emphasis to-day seems to be only on the last lot.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yes, in the introduction to the Lectionary, the assumption is daily Mass attendees come every day.