After immigrating to Maine, Perates became a furniture maker, the outgrowth of his grandfather’s woodworking lessons in Greece. After 1930, he specialized in English and Colonial American reproduction pieces in his own business. When his two sons were called to serve in World War II, he began carving religious icons and furniture based on Byzantine painting and sculpture and traditional Greek Orthodox Church furnishings. At his death, Perates’s shop contained more than forty large icons, including this Saint Mark [Icon of Saint Mark 1986.65.259], as well as a sixteen and one-half foot-tall altar in the Greek style, which he hoped would be sold to a church for the benefit of his grandchildren. He never sold his dazzling array of saints, stating that he made them for himself from his own inspiration and creativity.
Lynda Roscoe Hartigan Made with Passion: The Hemphill Folk Art Collection in the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C. and London: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990)
John Perates was born in Greece and raised in the Greek Orthodox Church. He trained with his grandfather to be a wood-carver and in 1912 moved to the United States to establish himself as a cabinetmaker. It was not until the 1930s that Perates felt he had a sound knowledge of the Bible, and could begin to carve religious icons.