Simeon Larivonovoff: Russian Orthodox “Old Believers” Icon Painter
Simeon comes from a very long line of icon painters. The tradition has been handed down over the years from father to son, without a break since 1392. He has kept up this tradition his entire life, painstakingly adhering to the old ways and rituals. Sadly the tradition stops at him. He is the last as he has no children, and it’s a dying art form.
Simeon lived in Vyg Russia until the age of 23 after which he traveled the United States and Europe, painting icons and then finally settling in Pittsburgh in 1989. Currently he has around 5000 icons in homes and churches all across the world.
Simeon comes from a group that broke off from the Russian Orthodox church called the “Old Believers” that are similar to the Amish. He keeps up their traditions with his art and in life. From the way he paints to still lighting the way through his Polish Hill home with kerosene.The ceremonies and rituals to produce an icon are demanding and require strict discipline.
He makes all of his own pigments and brushes. He paints in an egg tempura style and all of the gold in his work is real, 24 karat gold. He fasts until each painting is complete. First he takes a bath, then puts on clean clothes, lights a candle and recites a prayer. He lays out 9 prayer ladders and sings a prayer between each color on each ladder. There are 8 tones to be sung between colors and a final tone is sung with the last prayer ladder for his own sins. The icon is then varnished with linseed oil, amber and frankincense. After it is completed there is a 2 1/2 hour service called a “molben” that consecrates the icon and makes it a holy object.
In Simeon’s words: “An icon is a prayer in color. An iconographer keeps the history going of the orthodox faith. An iconographer a record keeper.”
Simeon’s Icons will be hung in the Artisan Gallery for month of November. Opening night will be November 7th from 6pm-10pm. We will have cuisine by food artist Jon Beck and drinks from Red Star Kombucha. Park a block behind us on dearborn st to avoid construction, this is one you won’t want to miss.