Christabel Anderson: Authenticity in Sacred Art

By Jonathan Pageau on October 17, 2012

Bury letter D
Illumination on Kelmscott vellum made with gold leaf and hand made watercolour paints of lapis lazuli, malachite, azurite, vermillion, ochres. 2010.
Inspired by Bury St. Edmund’s bible, ca. 1135, parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

Christabel Anderson is one of our collaborators on the Orthodox Art Journal.  She is a British Iconographer and Manuscript Illuminator to whom was recently attributed the prestigious QEST (Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust) Craft award.   That someone who considers herself first and foremost an Iconographer could be recognized in this manner is already a tribute to the excellence she brings to everything she does.

Her work is that of warm precision, an exactness in line and measure infused with humanity and spirit.   Her technical mastery is bolstered by her knowledge and use of traditional materials, whether it is natural vellum, lapis lazuli, azurite vermillion, gold or handmade ink from oak galls.

She is involved in several projects, such as rediscovering early British iconography, teaching Illumination in the UK and the US, developing quality hand-made art materials and creating products for the high-end department store Fortnum & Mason. In all these projects, the heart of what she does lies in her faith.   Several iconographers I have encountered often have two artistic productions, two identities almost.  They have their “icons” and then they have their “art”.  Their “art” can be of any sort, abstraction, realism, impressionism, expressionism, and it can be quite shocking to see the lack of relationship between the “icons” and the “art”, with one rooted in Christian Tradition and the other inspired by the very modernism that aimed to destroy Christianity.  In Christabel’s work, one sees only continuity and harmony.  Some of her “art” might have absolutely no religious undertone,  yet its heart remains anchored in the sacred through a vision of balance, authenticity and a love of God’s creation.  As an example of her dedication, I can site her involvement with Fortnum & Mason.  When she began selling her work there, which included illuminations as well as greeting cards and art prints, they had created an elaborate presentation stand, labeling her an “illustrator and heraldic artist”.  She insisted they remake the stand with the title “manuscript illuminator and iconographer” knowing full well all the implications of such a blatant attachment to Christian Tradition.

For more of her work, you can visit her facebook page.

I leave you with some examples of what she does and invite you to read her article: The Role of Matter in Iconography and the Liturgical Arts


Detail of Bury letter D


Saint Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury, 7th century. Egg tempera and natural pigments primarily vermillion, lapis lazuli, ochres with 24 carat gold leaf on a beech wood panel.

Christabel applying venetian red hand made watercolour after gilding

Miniature painting of a Persian horse in hand made watercolour paints, with shell gold, emeralds and rubies on tea stained wasli paper.




  1. Orthodox Collective on October 17, 2012 at 9:13 am

    […] Anderson: Authenticity in Sacred Art, Oct 17th 8:00 amclick to expand…Patmos: Europe's Most Idyllic Place To Live […]

  2. Andrew Pantelli on October 18, 2012 at 11:31 am

    A God given talent, given to her, which she returns to Him, by giving Him the glory!

Our Sponsors