Tell us about the icon-
I was commissioned by a church to paint an icon in memory of an Afro Carribean lad in their congregation who had been killed outside their church. The church wanted something to remember him by without it being about him.We talked and decided on a Mary and baby icon based on an African Mary.
I booked a week at Alton Abbey in Hampshire where I had learnt to paint icons and painted it there under instruction (not that I got any) of Dom Anselm, the iconographer monk at the Abbey.
I chose to paint it on a piece of African hardwood – Iroco, to keep the theme of Africa running through it.
What was the inspiration behind it?
I based the icon of the Mother of God of Vladimir – a 12th century icon painted in Constantinople and taken to Russia. The icon of the Mother of God of Vladimir was given to Kiev (Russia) by the patriarch of Constantinople in 1131 and then for 40 years the icon was kept in the Monastery in Vyshgorod near Kiev. The image did not remain there for long and in 1169 Andrey Bogolyubsky took the icon north with him and placed it in the newly built Dormition Cathedral in the city of Vladimir.
It is the most famous so is the one I chose to model my icon on.
You have put in a lot of details in this icon do you do a lot of research before you paint? I researched African tribal fabrics and clothing styles and then mixed and matched styles so that she isn’t from one particular African country. For instance – the princesses of one tribe wore pink bracelets, so Mary does.
I had decided to paint Jesus’s top white or cream, and as I started to paint, a voice from inside my head – from her, said “it’s got to be red” I argued a few times and kept getting the same reply, so gave up and painted it red. When the monk iconographer came out of church ( I had painted through lunchtime prayers), he looked at the icon and said – yes – that’s looking fine. I said – you have no idea what I have just been through.
Every evening at the Abbey, we sang Compline – the old version, and the last piece we sang is the “Hymn to Mary” and one of the lines is “O Clement, O Merciful” and I heard and felt laughing each night. In the end I called the icon after that line – Clement – Clemency! I phoned the vicar who had commissioned it, to say that it was finished and it was called the Mother of God of Clemency, and she said “yes, that would be right, the lad died just after stealing something, so was in need of clemency”!
Is it possible to buy a copy of the icon?
Yes – I get very good canvas prints done at A3 and A2 size from a printer in Northampton. I also have A4 size paper prints and small greetings cards of it.
A3 Canvas print £35 plus postage
A2 canvas print £50 plus postage
A4 paper print £10
Greetings cards £2.50 each.
Yvonne Bell is a Christian Sacred Artist and Vestment Designer. She paints pictures to peoples themes, words of Scripture or ideas. She makes Vestments for Priests and Bishops, Altar Frontals and Banners as well as Conference backcloths and illustrates books. All Fabric work is painted on Silk and Yvonne is a member of the Guild of Silk Painters.
‘I am a silk painter most of the time, this enables me to use the silk paintings in making vestments and altar frontals for churches. I occasionally paint on canvas with acrylic paints and then my style is quite different.’
If you like Yvonne’s work and would like to commission her to make you vestments or a painting do get in touch. All her work is custom made to order.