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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Folk Art: Folk Reliefs: Icon of Saint Mark
Icon of Saint Mark

Icon of Saint Mark
about 1940
John W. Perates
carved and painted wood
49 3/4 x 28 x 6 in. (126.4 x 71.1 x 15.3 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson

John Perates created many images of saints inspired by his Greek Orthodox faith. This icon depicts Saint Mark the Evangelist, who wrote one of the four Gospels. The vine around the edge of the carving symbolizes Jesus, as described in the New Testament: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper” (John 15:1), while the Greek letters A and O show that he represents the beginning (alpha) and end (omega) of all things. The saint is shown with an inkwell and quill, next to which appear the opening lines of his book: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophets . . .” (letter from Leonidas N. Economides, 1989). By combining all of these phrases, Perates emphasized the authenticity of Mark’s Gospel.

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