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Betsy Porter
Art and Iconography
The saints rarely did everything right – but the presence of God shone through
them!  To the worshipper, they are beloved friends, wise companions, models
of virtue and courage who share our humanity and show us the way to heaven.

An ancient saint may be known only by a persistent legend which catches the
imagination.  We have more detailed information on the relatively recent saints.

The comforting and inspiring images of saints adorn churches and homes.  
Saints are identifiable, not only by inscriptions on the icon, but by their
distinctive clothing and by the symbolic items they hold.  They are shown with
golden halos, illuminated by their interior light and by the brilliance of heaven.
Egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board, 11 x 14 inches, 2004
Photograph by Richard Anderson

Many legends and endless speculation surround Saint Mary of Magdala (Mary
Magdalen).  She was among the close associates of Jesus, and in the Gnostic
Gospels she appears as one of his privileged disciples.

Mary Magdalen is called “apostle to the apostles” because she encountered the
Risen Lord and announced the Resurrection to the others (John 20:11-18).  She
is depicted with a red Easter egg announcing “Christ is Risen.”

Mary has been traditionally identified with some of the other women who appear
in the gospels, in particular the nameless woman who burst into a dinner party
shortly before Jesus’ death and anointed his feet with expensive ointment from
an alabaster jar.  The jar that she carries has become her identifying attribute.
Egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board, 11 x 14 inches, 2004
Photograph by Richard Anderson

Saint Gregory of Nyssa was a Fourth Century bishop and theologian who lived in
Asia Minor, the area that is now Turkey.  He wrote extensive and insightful works
of Biblical commentary.  St Gregory has long been honored in the Orthodox
churches.  More recently his works have attracted the interest of western
Christians – among them the founders of my home parish, Saint Gregory of
Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, CA.
Egg tempera and gold leaf on shaped panel, 7 x 10 inches, 2006
Photograph by Richard Anderson

This small icon in Byzantine style is based on a full-length image of Francis painted
soon after his death, which would date from the time before Western art had diverged
markedly from the art of Byzantium.

The landscape and building evoke Francis' life in the hills of Italy, and the flying birds
recall his affection for all of creation.  The daytime landscape continues into a nighttime
border, decorated with sun, moon, and stars on a heavenly blue similar to the blue
used in Italian frescoes.
Egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 8 x 10 inches, 2007
Photograph by Richard Anderson

Saint Dorothy was an early Christian martyr.  Before her death, a sarcastic
friend taunted her - "You say heaven is like a beautiful garden, so when you
get there, send me some fruit and flowers from heaven."   After her martyrdom,
he mysteriously received a basket containing 3 apples and 3 roses - and they
were types he had never seen before.

Saint Dorothy is associated with gardens, flowers and fruit.  She is a patron
saint of gardeners and florists.

Egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 9.5 x 12.5 inches, 2004

George of Lydda, the ideal soldier, is the subject of many popular images, legends, and folktales.  He often appears as a
graceful knight on a white horse, killing a dragon who emerges from a dark cave.  In this icon, modeled after a famous
example in St. Petersburg, Russia, the dragon does not appear very threatening!

In life, George was a high-ranking Roman soldier who was beheaded for his faith after seven years of horrendous
tortures.  Some years after his death, George put in an appearance to save a city that was troubled by a dragon.

egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 5 x 6 inches, 2009
photograph by Richard Anderson

Defender of the Innocent, Courageous Martyr, Valiant in Adversity, Patron of Framers
egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board, 11 x 14 inches, 2012
Egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 7 x 10 inches, 2007
Photograph by Richard Anderson

Saint Marina of Antioch, known in the West as Saint Margaret, was the teen-aged
daughter of a pagan priest who banished her to the countryside when he learned that
she was a Christian.  There she lived with a foster mother and worked as a
shepherdess.  But her beauty caught the eye of a powerful man who, when she turned
him down, had her imprisoned and eventually beheaded.

This early and semi-legendary saint has been much revered throughout Christian
history, and many churches are dedicated to her.  It was the voice of Saint Margaret
that spoke to Joan of Arc.

Saint Marina is shown here as a shepherdess, in the red garment of a martyr, carrying
a martyr’s cross.  Her hand is raised in a gesture of renunciation.
Above right; egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 13 x 17 inches, 2009
Photograph by Richard Anderson

Below left; egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 7 x 9 inches, 2007
Below right, egg tempera and gold lead on sculpted board, 4 x 6 inches,

John the Baptist is among the most revered of saints. Like the
desert prophets before him, he is depicted with shaggy hair
and beard, tanned from living outdoors.  His garment of
blue-green fur evokes his association with the river Jordan.
Egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 5 x 6 inches, 2005

Lydia appears in Acts 16:14-15, as one of St. Paul's early converts in Macedonia.  In the
patriarchal society of the time, she was an independent woman, with her own business
dealing in precious purple cloth.  Paul and his traveling companions stayed as guests in her
Egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board, 9.5 x 12.5 inches, 2004

Seraphim was a monastic hermit who lived in a hut in the northern woods of
Russia.  He was severely injured by brigands who thought he was hiding a
treasure, but recovered and forgave them, although his back remained stooped.  
He shared his already-small Lenten rations with a bear.

Seraphim became a famous teacher (starets) and healer, with the reputed ability
to “read” the hearts of others.  He was full of the Holy Spirit, and on one occasion
is said to have shone with visible light like the sun.
Back to Gallery
Egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 7 x 9 inches, 2007
Photograph by Richard Anderson

Everything works better when you can do it with friends!  Even Jesus knew that he
needed friends, helpers, colleagues to assist and support him in his work.  The
fisherman Simon, later nicknamed Peter, was among the first and most intimate of
Jesus’ many friends and associates.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter went on to become a primary leader of
the early church.

He is shown here in a posture of prayer and adoration.  His scroll represents the
legacy of the holy word which he holds.
Egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 5 x 6 inches,

In this small personal icon, Saint Andrew is
depicted as a respected and confident
teacher.  To see how this icon was painted,
go to the
Step by Step page.

Egg tempera and gold leaf on shaped panel, 6 x 8
inches, 2009

Saint Nicholas, an early bishop renowned
for his generosity, is much beloved across
northern and eastern Europe.
Egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board, 9.5 x 12.5 inches, 2005 (unfinished)

Saint Brendan was an early Irish abbot who, around the year 600, sailed
westward with his band of sailor monks in a square-rigged curragh, made of
leather over a basketry frame.  They were probably searching for a reputed
earthly paradise in the "Isles of the Blessed."

They had astonishing adventures!  They reported seeing flaming mountains,
most likely the volcanoes of Iceland.  Continuing westward, they found other
landings, one of which was probably Newfoundland - which would make them
among the earliest discoverers of America.

Although the prevailing winds were against them, they managed to return to
Ireland.  Saint Brendan lived to be 93 and founded several more monasteries.
and Saint Prochoros on the Island of Patmos
Egg tempera, gold leaf, and shell gold on panel, 8 x 10 inches, 2008
photograph by Richard Anderson

Unlike the other apostles, Saint John lived to an old age, but he did not escape
persecution.  With his young disciple Prochoros, he was sent to the prison island
of Patmos.  Here they take shelter in a cave which occupies most of the craggy
and exaggeratedly tiny island, surrounded by restless seas.

John receives inspiration from heaven and dictates the Word of God to the scribe
Prochoros.  The 3 rays coming from heaven represent the Trinity.

To see how this icon was painted, go to the
Step by Step page.
Egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 5 x 6 inches, 2009
Photograph by Richard Anderson

The early virgin martyrs, legendary young women who were imprisoned,
tortured, and executed for their faith, have been much revered throughout
Christian history.  They typically ran into trouble when higher-ranking men took
an unwelcome fancy to them.

Catherine, a beautiful and scholarly princess, is the most glamorous of these
saints.  She is often depicted with the wheel on which she was tortured.  Her
voice, along with that of Saint Margaret, is said to have spoken to Joan of Arc.

No writings or sayings of Saint Catherine have come down to us.  The words on
her scroll come from the approximately contemporary Abba Pambo, a Desert
Father, but they seem to fit Catherine's generous nature.
Egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 8 x 10 inches, 2009
Photograph by Richard Anderson

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God ... and the Word
was made flesh and dwelt among us.  And we have seen his glory, full of grace
and truth.  From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."

Using a quill pen, John writes his inspiring words with his left hand into a
precariously balanced book - while the Spirit of God, personified as a small
angel, whispers into his ear.  The words of the inscription begin in the book and
continue around the margin.
At right above, John is shown in his wild, dangerous, beautiful desert environment.

His severed head prefigures his coming violent and unjust execution, completing his story.

There is a legend that John will come and preach the Gospel to any dying person who has not heard it previously.
egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 8 x 10 inches, 2010
photograph by Richard Anderson

"I have set you to be a light to the peoples, and to bring salvation to the
uttermost parts of the earth."  Saint Paul is shown on a voyage across a very
compact Mediterranean Sea, to spread the Gospel in a distant city.  He holds a
bundle of scrolls as he engages in a lively discussion with the ship's captain.

Saint Paul's memorable adventures and misadventures are told in the Book of
Acts and in his own writings.  He endured repeated shipwrecks as well as
human misunderstandings and hostility.  By the time he was imprisoned and
beheaded, he had established Christian churches in a number of cities, all
around the eastern Mediterranean area.
SAINT LI BAN of IRELAND - Princess, Survivor, Mermaid
egg tempera and gold leaf on shaped sculpted board, 7 x 8 inches, 2010
photograph by Richard Anderson
painted as a gift for my daughter
Sarah Porter, author of the "Lost Voices" trilogy of
young adult novels about contemporary teenage mermaids.

According to Irish Legend, Li Ban, a king's daughter, was one of the few
survivors of a great flood that occurred before the arrival of Saint Patrick.  
For a year, Li Ban lived with her lap dog in the sun room of her seaside
castle.  When they ran out of food, Li Ban became a mermaid and the dog
became an otter.  Together they fished the coastal waters for 300 years.  
Then they were found by some monks and came ashore; and Li Ban was
baptized as a Christian.  Rather than live as a mermaid for another 300
years, Li Ban chose to die and go to heaven.

Li Ban is shown with arms raised in "orans" or prayer position, praising God
for her life, her freedom, and her beautifully wild and verdant environment.
Gregory was one of the last married bishops of the early church; his wife
was Saint Theosebia, a deacon.  He came from a large family which
included several saints, among them his brother Saint Basil the Great
and his sister Saint Macrina the Younger.

Above right, Gregory is depicted in an imposing vestment, probably
double-weave wool, with a striking pattern of interlocking crosses.  At left,
Saints Theosebia and Gregory are shown, not only as a married couple
but as a liturgical team.

"We regard falling from God's friendship as the only thing dreadful, and
we consider becoming God's friend as the only thing truly worthwhile."
Egg tempera and gold leaf on sculptured
board, 12 x 12.5 inches, 2011
Photograph by Richard Anderson
Gospel Writer - Beloved Physician
egg tempera and gold leaf on shaped sculpted board, 7 x 8 inches, 2011
photograph by Richard Anderson

Saint Luke accompanied Saint Paul on some of his voyages, and is credited
with writing the Book of Acts as well as the Gospel According to Saint Luke.

Because Paul mentions Luke as "the beloved physician," many hospitals are
named after him, and he is a patron of all health care workers.  He is also
traditionally believed to have painted three portraits of Mary with her baby
Jesus, making him the first iconographer.

Luke's gospel is the only one to include the Annunciation to Mary, the
Christmas story of Jesus' birth in a stable in Bethlehem, the parable of the
Prodigal Son, and the parable of the Good Samaritan.  He is notable for his
sensitivity toward the poor and oppressed, and for his friendly attitude toward
egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board, 7 x 7 inches, 2012
photograph by Richard Anderson

Saint Philothea (c. 1206-1218) was from Bulgaria, a 12-year-old victim of domestic
violence.  Every day she carried lunch to her farmer father in the fields, but along
the way she shared some of it with poor children.  When he found out, her father
became so angry that he killed her.  He then made confession to the local bishop,
who considered Philothea a martyr and tried to bring her remains to the cathedral -
but her body could not be moved!  Finally a monastery in Romania was named, and
Philothea allowed her body to be moved there.  Her relics still receive much devotion
and are reputed to perform miracles - and she is called Protectress of Romania.

Young Philothea is shown in a martyr's red robe, holding a basket of food in her left
hand and a martyr's cross in her right.
egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board, 13 x 17 inches, 2014
painted at the 2014 Santa Barbara icon workshop under instruction by Dmitri Andreyev
photograph by Richard Anderson

Saint Symeon (c. 949-1022) is called "the New" to distinguish him from his mentor,
another Symeon.  After serving as a courtier in the troubled Byzantine empire, he
became a monk and rose to the position of abbot.

Symeon often experienced God as a sphere of light that talked to him!  And he
visualized God as light; "The Lord is light, and his voice is as light from light."  He
wrote hymns and other poetry, often passionate and mystical.  His writings remain
fresh, intense, and surprisingly modern.

Symeon is here depicted in conversation with God, depicted as Jesus in heaven,
through an atmosphere permeated with energy.  He has an unusual mandorla or
body halo.  Behind him is his monastery.
egg tempera and gold leaf on shaped panel, 8 x 10 inches, 2014

The story of Saint Stephen, the first Christian Martyr, is told in Acts 6 and 7.  
After an impassioned sermon, this young man was stoned to death by an angry
mob.  As he died, he said, "Look, I can see heaven thrown open!"

Because Stephen held the position of deacon, he is shown in the white garment
of an Orthodox deacon.  He wears a martyr's red robe and carries a martyr's