My weblog ELECTRON BLUE, which concentrated on science and mathematics, ran from 2004-2008. It is no longer being updated. My current blog, which is more art-related, is here.

Wed, 26 Dec, 2007

Prophet Zarathushtra Icon Portrait

Today, December 26, is, in Zoroastrian lore, the day that the Prophet Zarathushtra died. Zarathushtra was the first person to preach a monotheistic religion, and he won over his first followers in what is now eastern Iran or western Afghanistan. His own words survive in a set of theological and moral hymns known as the Gathas. This text is the original scripture of the Zoroastrian religion. Some legends say Zarathushtra died by assassination, others that he passed away peacefully of natural causes. No one will ever know for sure, since it was so long ago, almost 3500 years. But today is a solemn holiday for Zoroastrians, and I am proud to honor the day by showing you my just-finished icon portrait of the founder of that faith.

Prophet Zarathushtra, acrylic on board. 15 inches x 9 inches.

In this painting I am attempting to portray Zarathushtra in a way that respects his ancient Persian heritage. Too many pictures of Zarathushtra have made him look too "Western" or too much like a Jewish or Christian figure. In others, where he wears a turban, he looks too Islamic. This icon-portrait is in the same format and style as my Seven Zoroastrian Immortals, in which I drew from a combination of modernist abstraction and ancient Persian art. Zarathushtra stands praying before the fire with his hands raised, just as he describes himself in the first stanza of the Gathas. (The portrait face is that of one of my Friendly Mathematicians.) The sacred fire here is not placed in the Parsi urn (as in the picture previous to this) but on a three-tiered stone platform which is more like what might have been used in the distant past. The three tiers, which can be seen in a different order in old Persian monuments, stand for the great threefold moral injunction of the Zoroastrian faith: Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds.

Zoroastrianism, despite the small numbers of its remaining followers, has as many disagreeing divisions as Christianity. Some Zoroastrians will like this image and some will not. But I hope, as with my other paintings inspired by this faith, that I will in some way contribute to the awareness and survival of this ancient wisdom tradition.

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