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The La Salle College High School Icon Collection - The Holy Grandparents

by Vivian Imbruglia July 21, 2023 3 min read

A few years ago, I was approached by the president of La Salle College High School, a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school conducted in the tradition of St. John Baptist de La Salle. He had envisioned, and was ready to commission, 4 large icons all unique and somewhat modern. The president sent me full and detailed descriptions of his inspired images, I quickly made out sketches, and upon his approval, got to work on these school and family-themed icons, all of which were intended for his students to connect with and derive inspiration from.

The Holy Grandparents.

One of these works, was a lovely depiction of Sts. Joachim and Anne to honor grandparents of the students.

Here is his description below:

On the first Wednesday in June, we will be having grandparents' day for the Freshmen here at La Salle. I have long been extremely humbled by the generosity of our grandparent community--whether with their time in helping with transportation and in attending events or with the financial resources they have saved over the years. It is not uncommon for a grandparent or even for both sets to contribute to a boy's La Salle education, even at a time when they no longer produce income. One I know well because she has had a dozen grandsons go through here calls it the "Nan Scholarship." I would like to dedicate an icon to that generosity.

I hope you can let your spirit and imagination enter into this scene. Jesus and Mary--the same Jesus and Mary from the Nancy Reilly icon--are visiting with Sts. Joachim and Anne. St. Joachim might be visibly failing, drawn and tired, perhaps sitting in a chair which suggests handles like a wheelchair. The teen Jesus is sitting across from him, showing him something--I'd let your inspiration take over here, a Torah scroll, something he has made, a treat he has brought him. Could be anything a 17-year-old boy would want to show or show off to his grandfather. Behind the two seated male figures are the two standing women, St. Anne and Our Lady.

Jesus is looking intently at St. Joachim. In that sort of half-understanding of reality teenagers can manifest, he senses that Joachim may not be around for much longer. Sts. Joachim and Anne and the Blessed Mother are focused in turn on Jesus. All this echos the glances in traditional Byzantine icons like that of the Trinity. They are impressed and perhaps a little surprised at the adult man he is becoming.

While Jesus and the Blessed Mother would be like the Nancy Reilly icon--maybe Mary a year or two greyer, I would have a special request for the portrayal of St. Anne. I would like her to be truly grandmotherly, entirely grey, and, in a word, plump...a cuddly grandmother. Too often, I think, the saints are portrayed in very sanitized, generic ways. No one is grey, no one is overweight; if they are bald, it is due to tonsure. I would like St. Anne to be depicted in a way that a very average 75-year-old woman who has worked hard her whole life and never put herself first could look at and see herself.

I could tell that these ideas were fruit of meditation, and in prayer I attempted to capture the scene. Here is the draft I offered him:

 

 

Upon completion, here are the humbling words he offered:

Our newest icon honors our grandparents, by depicting Jesus and his Mother with her parents, Sts. Joachim and Anne, the vigor of the teenaged Jesus contrasted with the frailty of his grandfather, the Family united in concern for its grandfather as well as a dawning appreciation that Jesus is becoming a man capable of giving as well as receiving care.

In every case, as should be obvious, I have an idea with some words to describe it. Vivian takes these thoughts and literally prays them into being. In most cases, our icons have been a reverential “spin” on the traditional rendering, and Vivian has entered into the spirit both of the religious mystery we are presenting and that of our school, its students, and their families. I couldn’t be more pleased and grateful to have these icons engaging our community in the charism of our Institute, which has always been about mediating the experience of God’s saving love into the lives of the young people entrusted to our care. 

Interested in this specific icon as a print? You can find it on our shop here.


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