UKRAINIAN MADONNAS: Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and even still continues to aggress, artists have taken up their art to address the war—several drawing on iconography of the Madonna and Child, particularly the Maria lactans (breastfeeding Mary) type. Two Ukrainian artists were inspired by different news photos of young mothers protecting their infants from the shelling in Kyiv in March—one of whom was photographed in a hospital being treated for wounds she sustained from fallen glass while shielding her daughter with her body, and the other hiding from the blasts in a subway station.
These images show the vulnerability of Christ, who is with us in our suffering, and indict those who cause such suffering.
In his response to the war in Ukraine, Serbian artist Michael Galovic, who lives in Australia, also uses Christian iconography: the Theotokos Kyriotissa (Mother of God enthroned with Christ); Archangel Michael, the patron saint of Kyiv, fighting a dragon (Rev. 12:7–8) in an ethereal rendering of a scene from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, a fifteenth-century French book of hours; and a hellmouth from the twelfth-century Winchester Psalter. These three medieval images are superimposed on Picasso’s masterwork Guernica, named after the Spanish town bombed by Nazis in 1937 and representative of the horrors of war.
Whereas Frirean’s and Solomennykova’s paintings are more intimate, Galovic takes a more cosmic approach, showing wails of lament from abstracted forms intercut with epic battles between good and evil—but at the calm center, Christ is on the throne, holding the scroll of his good word. History is going somewhere. Hate will be damned. Love will triumph.
Thanks to Art/s and Theology Australia for introducing me to the Galovic painting.
>> “Galoba (The Prayer),” performed by Trio Mandili: A sung performance of a poem written in 1858 by the Georgian poet and statesman Ilia Chavchavadze (1837–1907). An English translation follows.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
With tenderness I stand before thee on my knees.
I ask for neither wealth nor glory;
I won’t debase my holy prayer with such matters.
I desire instead for my soul to be enlightened by heaven,
My heart to be radiant with thy love.
Even if my enemies pierce me in the heart,
I beg thee: “Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do!”
Even if my enemies pierce me in the heart,
I beg thee: “Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do!” [source, adapt.]
>> “Peace All Over the World” by Robert Bradley: Written and performed by Detroit musician Robert Bradley, this song originally appeared on the film Playing for Change: A Cinematic Discovery of Street Music (2005). To celebrate their twentieth anniversary, Playing for Change [previously] has remastered it and added new footage from Ukraine.
>> “Du som gick före oss” (You Who Went Before Us) | Words by Olov Hartman, 1968 | Music by Sven-Erik Bäck, 1959 | Performed by VOCES8, 2022: The melody uses all twelve semitones of the octave! I’ve provided a literal English translation of the Swedish below with the help of Google Translate; for a looser but more poetic translation by Fred Kaan, from 1976, see here. Note: The video identifies the song parenthetically as Psalm 74, not because it’s a setting of Psalm 74 from the Bible, but because it is no. 74 in Den svenska Psalmboken, the official hymnal of the Church of Sweden.
Du som gick före oss längst in i ångesten, hjälp oss att finna dig, Herre, i mörkret. Du som bar all vår skuld in i förlåtelsen, du är vårt hjärtas fred, Jesus, för evigt. Du som med livets bröd går genom tid och rum, giv oss för varje dag, Kristus, det brödet. Du som går före oss ut i en trasig värld, sänd oss med fred och bröd, Herre, i världen.
You who went before us in the depths of anxiety, help us to find you, Lord, in the dark. You who bore all our guilt into forgiveness, you are the peace of our hearts, Jesus, forever. You who are the living bread offered abundantly through all the earth, give us each day, dear Christ, that bread. You who go before us out into a broken world, send us out likewise, Lord, with peace and bread.
3 thoughts on “Roundup: Ukrainian Madonnas and songs of peace”
That Galovic painting is quite impressive – I imagine even more so in real life! It’s fascinating how Picasso’s “Guernica” has achieved the status of a symbol for the depredations of war – which is something Picasso himself would probably have encouraged.
Thank you for the music from The Trio Mandili. It was the highlight of this terrific post.Well done Victoria.
Thank you for this post. Someone said “Beauty is the ultimate rebellion” and this post is that. Thank you.