Living just to the north of New York City puts events within striking distance that only come to this continent once in a lifetime. One such event was the display at the Onassis Cultural Center. (NY Times review HERE). On display were several byzantine icons from Venetian Crete, as well as several icons from Andreas Pavias, Michael Damaskenos, and Giorgios Klontzas, and (the main attraction) icons and paintings from Domenikos Theotokopoulos, better known to the world as El Greco. His recension of the Dormition of the Virgin is seen to the right, with the triple figura of the Theotokos as corpse, newly-borne soul, and enthroned Queen of Heaven. I remember studying El Greco in my AP Spanish Literature course, though we mostly covered his better-known works (which were reviled in his day) such as Coronation of the Virgin and the Burial of the Count of Orgaz. It is interesting how the elongated figures of his later works are a sort of superimposition of Byzantine, iconographic elongation upon manneristic, natural depiction. Also interesting to see was the way in which the starving artists of Crete and Venice catered to their patrons (the Roman Catholic ruling minority) and painted composite works with byzantine, hieratic axes flanked by extremely narrative, emotive western figurae.
Hope went with me (she was eager for some Papi time and I for some one-on-one daughter time) and, bless her heart, was great. We rode the subway in and walked about a half a mile. Hope is quite easily one of the most observant children I have ever known, with one of the best memories. She was incredibly involved in the images once we got to the display, and not just from getting a "head start" on these scenes from church. She got several comments from fellow observers who were impressed by the things she pointed out. Mimesis is definitely one of this kid's strong suits. We took a break and had lunch in the outside corridor (PB&J), then went back in for the rest of the images. I do believe the high point for me was standing in front of Giorgios Klontzas' work In Thee Rejoiceth (pictured left) and, crossing myself, singing the hymn it depicted (known to most English-speaking Orthodox as "All of Creation Rejoiceth in You").
Today we travelled to Glen Gardner, NJ for Divine Liturgy and had the pleasure of meeting the warm, faithful brethren at St. Gregory Palamas Church (mentioned in a previous post as the generous souls who "adopted" us during the Christmas season. We had sent them pictures of the girls opening their gifts and were surprised to find them up on display in their hall (they did not know we were coming, though I had left a message). Father Thomas was concelebrating with Fr. Paul Shafran, a priest of many faithful years and one of the first graduates of my current place of studies. Again Hope proved interesting. She looked at the aged priest and, turning to me with a crinkled nose, said, "But he's so old, Papi!"
"Yes, and that is why we must be so nice to him and do what he says, because he knows better." It is interesting that, somehow (Lord, help her) Hope has picked up on the notion that old people are somehow less, that they are not to be listened to or heeded. The Church has, of late, been a link to things beyond us, before us, both in pictoral witness of eternal things and living examples of steadfastness in the Vineyard. Wisdom...