Icons at Maryhill Museum of Art (Part 1)

(1 of 2 Posts)

In 1926, Queen Marie of Romania traveled to Goldendale, Washington to dedicate the Maryhill Museum of Art for her friend, Sam Hill. She brought with her many royal treasures including royal metal thread embroidered gowns, jewels, carved furniture and ecclesiastic treasures, but also the following Orthodox Icons that are part of the permanent collection. All are traditional egg tempera and gold leaf on wooden panels. (The Orthodox Icon room features 9 icons. We’ll several others in the next post.)

St. John the Forerunner

St. John the Forerunner Icon at Maryhill Museum of Art
St. John the Forerunner, 18th Century

In Orthodox icons, St. John is typically shown with angel’s wings, a hair shirt (often blue) and a green cloak. As an ascetic, he is typically depicted as emaciated with thin arms, but with a very large chest to signify that he is the athlete of God.

In this image, he points to the infant Christ in a gold chalice, holding a scroll that reads, “I saw and have borne witness; this is the Lamb of God.”

Six scenes from the life of John surround him as follows, clockwise from the lower left:

  • Birth of St. John
  • St. John Baptizing in the River Jordan
  • St. John Praying in the Wilderness
  • An Angel Guiding St. John into the Wilderness
  • Finding the Head of St. John
  • Beheading of St. John

Because icons represent the lives of the Holy, they do not show events in time and space as we know it. This is why events occurring in different times and places may be shown simultaneously, not sequentially as we expect.

Pascal (Easter) Icon with Great Feasts

Paschal (Easter) Icon with Great Feasts, 19th Century

In the center we see Christ’s Resurrection above His Descent Into the Place of the Righteous Dead. Twelve scenes appear around the perimeter representing the Great Feasts of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Top left to right:

  • Nativity of the Theotokos (The God-Bearer or Mother of God) – September 8
  • Presentation of the Theotokos in the Temple – November 21
  • Annunciation of the Mother of God – March 25
  • Nativity of Christ – December 25

Top right down (vertically):

  • Theophany (Epiphany or the Baptism of Christ) – January 6
  • Transfiguration – August 6

Bottom left to right:

  • Pentecost (Descent of the Holy Spirit)
  • The Old Testament Trinity
  • Dormition (Falling Asleep or Death) of the Theotokos – August 15
  • Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross – September 14

Left Side:

  • 2nd from top – Presentation of the Lord in the Temple – February 2
  • Below – Entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday)

Icon with Three Saints (St. Barbara, St. Seraphim Archbishop of Phanarion & Neochorion & St. John of Damascus

Left to right: St. Barbara, St. Seraphim Archbishop of Phanarion & Neochorion, and St. John of Damascus

Icon with Three Saints, 18th or 19th Century
by Ioannes Eugenoglu, Greek

These three saints share the same feast day – December 4. St. Barbara is a Holy Great Martyr and popular Orthodox saint, venerated since at least the 9th century. St. Seraphim (1550-1601) was a monastic, later elected archbishop in Greece, who was killed by Muslims. St. John of Damascus (~645 – 749) is considered the last of the “Fathers” of the Eastern Orthodox Church, noted theologian and defender of icons during the iconoclast controversy of the 7th century. His hymns are still in liturgical use today. His scroll petitions the “Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to have mercy on His people.”

This icon has an inscription in the lower central margin that says, “Painted by the hand of Ioannes Eugenoglu.”