Our Mother Mary and Her Beloved Son
Haleqa Teklai GebraKristos (Ethiopian, b. 1940)
MediumPaint on canvas
DimensionsWork : 45 x 36 in. (1.1 m x 91.44 cm)
Credit LineGift of Neal and Elizabeth Sobania
LabelThe interior walls of Ethiopian Orthodox churches are typically decorated with panoramic murals that beautify the buildings while also providing instruction and inspiration to the congregations that worship there. Images of the Virgin Mary holding the Christ child in her arms are an essential iconographic component of many church murals. The basic composition and style of this Mary and child painting follow models that have been used in Ethiopia since the 16th century. The bold colors, schematic figure drawing, and elaborate surface patterning are all typical characteristics of traditional Ethiopian Christian art. The painting was originally commissioned by an Ethiopian nun whose image appears in the lower left corner. The nun intended to donate the painting to a church where it would have been pasted onto a wall to serve as a focal point for prayers and veneration by the faithful. However, the nun never collected the finished image from the artist and it was later acquired from him by Neal Sobania. The word Haleqa in front of the artist’s name is an honorific title for a person who is highly educated in church teachings but is either not ordained or not practicing as a priest. Haleqa Teklai GebraKristos belongs to a well-known family of religious painters from the holy city of Aksum, where his paintings may be found on the walls of many churches. Most church paintings in Ethiopia have historically been created by artists with extensive religious training.