NEW AT THE MUSEUM
St Alypius the Stylite
Cretan icon, late 17th century
Recently the Museum acquired a fascinating small late 17th century Cretan icon depicting the pillar-saint Alypius. Pillar-saints, or “stylites,” lived an ascetic life of prayer and fasting on top of tall pillars at a distance from earthly concerns. Painted against a gold background, we see the illustrious monk-saint looking at us from the top of a white marble pillar which is crowned with a Corinthian capital. Alypius raises both hands in a gesture of prayer and acceptance. Interestingly enough, St Alypius is venerated on the same day, November 26th, in the Orthodox Church, the Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, and the Roman Catholic Church.
The iconography and style of our newly acquired icon is reminiscent of two icons with the same subject painted by the Cretan master Emmanuel Tzanes (1610-1690). This famous icon painter created and donated one icon of St Alypius in 1660 to the San Giorgio dei Greci church in Venice. Another one, with the same subject, and signed by Tzanes is now in the collection of the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva. Our icon without doubt is based on Tzanes’ examples and must have been painted within his close circles. A small but highly interesting addition to our steadily growing collection of Greek and Cretan icons!