Monday, March 23, 2009

Sketchbook Cover: Theodora

To switch gears today, I wanted to post my newest sketchbook cover. I have a book of medieval art that keeps catching my eye, the cover is a close up of a stained glass window. The image is a traditional Madonna and Child and what struck me most was the variations in the red and blue tiles. The soot of many years collecting and pooling in segments adding depth and texture.

Inspired by this, I decided to paint a "stained glass" cover. The subject is probably not familiar to many people. Theodora is a Christian martyr and the subject of a wonderful oratorio by George Frideric Handel.

Her story dates back to 300 AD, in Alexandria. Theodora takes a vow of celibacy during a time where women had a duty to the state of Rome to produce children. Once her celibacy for her Christian faith became known, she was sentenced to be imprisoned in a brothel.

In the meantime, a Roman soldier, Didymus, heard of Theodora's plight. He was secretly a Christian and his heart was torn when he learned of her fate. He made arrangements to visit the brothel that Theodora was transported to.

Didymus managed to pose as Theodora's first customer. Once inside her room, he instructed her to dress in his clothing and make her escape. She managed to pull this feat off and Didymus was discovered after the next man entered the room.

He revealed that he was a blessed man because he had helped free an innocent woman and now had a chance to die for his faith. He was brought before the courts and sentenced to death.

When Theodora heard about his fate, she could not bear to have him die alone, so revealed her identity as he was being sentenced. According to legend, Theodora was beheaded and Didymus was burned, both retaining their pure faith to the grave.

Not the most cheerful subject matter, but an interesting story nonetheless. I enjoyed painting this cover immensely - I think it turned out really well too.

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