Icon painting: Virgin Mother and Child by Vasiliki Papantoniou
The Virgin Mother and Child presented in the "Unfading Rose" theme, based on a hymn to Her Grace of the Orthodox Church.
Greek Islands Tour Guide with a Difference, Vasiliki Papantoniou, artist, iconographer, archaeologist, historian, and theologian
Vasiliki Papantoniou, artist, iconographer, archaeologist, historian, and theologian
Article by Alison Gardner, Paintings and Photo by Vasiliki Papantoniou

When I first met Vasiliki (call me "Vicky") Papantoniou at the city-center Athens hotel where our group assembled to begin a cultural tour of several Greek Islands, I knew we were in for a treat. Her eyes said it all: flashing with personality, full of humor, and continually sizing up her surroundings and the new recruits for whom she accepted full responsibility for the next two weeks.

Icon painting of Palm Sunday, the Entrance into Jerusalem by Vasiliki Papantoniou
Palm Sunday,
The Entrance into Jerusalem.

Twenty-five years of sharing the culture, art and history of her beloved homeland with thousands of visitors shone through in Vicky's always-professional delivery of each day's program. On our particular journey, there were a number of times -- due to unpredictable ferrying weather and a 24-hour general strike -- when she exercised all the logistical expertise of a Napoleon, with whom she shares the characteristic of being a diminutive figure whose leadership goes unquestioned!

However, it is Vicky's "other life" that particularly intrigues me. It is a life that blossoms when the demands of the tourist season are over for another year and she has the luxury of time between November and April to study and to create her internationally-acclaimed iconographic art. This post-Roman Byzantine stylized art form is revered and commissioned by all Orthodox and Catholic Christian church communities and art collectors around the world.

As a perennial student, never satisfied with the extensive knowledge she has already achieved, Vicky has immersed in the art and archaeology of the long-influential Byzantine era (500-1450 A.D.). She has acquired a Masters degree in history and archaeology from the National University of Athens, and a just-completed degree in academic theology from the same institution. Studies in Italian culture and art at the University of Florence, Italy have extended her expertise ever wider.

Icon painting of St. George killing the dragon by Vasiliki Papantoniou
St. George riding a white horse and
killing the dragon. Top right, the
blessing of God is upon him.
Icon painting of the Adoration of the Magi by Vasiliki Papantoniou
The Adoration of the Magi where the
three Wise Men present gifts to
the new born Jesus.
Icon panel carver at work.
Master carver, Apostolo Roumeliotis, from the island of Lesvos, creates beautifully carved icon panels.

Though she is a contemporary icon painter, Vicky honors and adheres to the traditions of the past. She paints in the traditional egg-tempera technique of Byzantium in which a paint mix of natural earth powder colors is added to egg yolk and vinegar and painted onto a wooden panel prepared with 22-karat gold leaf ground over a gesso base. Sizes range from miniature to full size paintings. The beautiful wood carvings that are an integral part of most icons are all one-of-a-kind pieces, carved by true folk craftsmen working with traditional hand tools and carving methods.

Vicky is also in demand as an international guest lecturer on Byzantine iconography, explaining the techniques and symbolism of each icon theme. "I'm not giving a sermon," Vicky says with a characteristic twinkle in her eye. "I present my information from a theological and historical, not a religious point of view."

Decorative frame by Vasiliki Papantoniou

Vicky's passion and affection for her vocation go with her everywhere. I will not soon forget a chance encounter on our foray into Crete's parched hills to visit the Holy Trinity Monastery, not previously on this tour itinerary. In one of its cluster of historic buildings dating from the 1500s, we came face to face with the original of a charming 2x3-foot icon of St. John the Evangelist with a small dark haired angel perched comfortably on his shoulder and whispering into his ear. Vicky had painted this icon for several clients but always from books. Giggling like a school girl between astonished exclamations, here was Vicky in a heartfelt encounter with a cherished friend.

Icon painting of Our Lady of the Angels by Vasiliki Papantoniou
Icon painting of St. Peter and St. Paul embracing by Vasiliki Papantoniou
Left: Icon of St. Peter (left) and St. Paul embracing, whose original is in the Monastery of St. John on the island of Patmos.
Right: A beautiful composition of "Our Lady of the Angels" with two Archangels, painted on this elegant hand-carved piece of wood.

Interested in Icon Art? Contact:
Vasiliki (Vicky) Papantoniou
P.O. Box 52692, T.K. 14504
Drosia Attikis, GREECE
Tel/Fax: 030-10-8135624
Email: basilicart@yahoo.com.

More Greek Island Articles

Click on the picture to go Greek Island-hopping with Vicky!

Click on photo for a humorous daily journal from our eventful Greek Islands tour.

Button link to Greek Island hopping. Button link to journal article on the Greek Islands tour

Alison Gardner is a travel journalist, magazine editor, guidebook author, and consultant. She specializes in researching alternative vacations throughout the world, suitable for people over 50 and for women travelers of all ages. She is also the publisher and editor of Travel with a Challenge Web magazine.
Email: alison@travelwithachallenge.com

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