Icons are mandatory in all Eastern Orthodox Churches and are called the windows to heaven, since the belief under the Orthodox faith; icons are a glimpse of eternity with Christ. Icon means “image” taken from the Greek word “Eikon” and Icons usually depict Christ, Virgin Mary, Angels, Saints and significant details of their lives that the upholders celebrate during Orthodox holidays.
It takes a skilled icon painter with theological knowledge as a visual guide for the faithful to behold the unseen spiritual world interpreted through the artist’s tools, and paints in pure vibrant colors. Although most painters are gifted artists especially for Iconographers who must dig deep into their heart and soul to be able to paint masterpieces for the faithful followers; on the other hand, Iconographers are usually in a sense, spiritual artists who have the task to awaken religious emotions in the hearts of the observers and in accordance with the strict regulations of the Orthodox church in the presence of the glory of God and His Saints.
In Serbia, they have discovered a masterful Iconographer and painter by the name of Ivan Kovalčik Mileševac, who magnificently created beautiful icons for the Serbian Orthodox Churches, Monasteries, Museums, Bishops, and people from all walks of life.
Ivan was born on March 3, 1968 in Prijepolje, Serbia and under apprenticeship of Serbian teachers, painter Milan Minic and Professor Zoran Puric; he mastered the basic skills in painting and graphics. In a short time and with great commitment, Ivan is a self-taught Iconographer and he has a detailed eye to the fine study of the Byzantine rules of painting icons and frescoes to perfection; and he has become a prime master as an Iconographer.
Ivan brilliantly painted for the Serbian Orthodox Churches (SPC) in the Dioceses of Milesevo for over 25 years, such works as The Baptism of Christ, St. Archangel Gabriel, Nativity of Christ, Holy Trinity, St. Nicholas, St. Prophet Elias, Saint George and many more icons. Also, for over 30 churches and monasteries, Ivan composed icons for the church’s walls & altars, including church murals throughout Serbia and Montenegro.
With the generous support of well-known art critics and experts of Byzantine art, among them former director of the National Museum in Belgrade Mr. Jefta Jeftovic and Dr. Ivan Djordjevic, a professor at the Faculty of Philosophy Department of Serbian medieval art; and Mr. Slobodan Mileusnic, SPC Treasury Manager, Ivan’s Icons emerged from religious circles and opened up to the wider public. Before long, the Icons painted by Ivan, are not only hung on the walls of Serbian Churches, but also on the walls of many institutions, private collectors across the country and abroad. His lovely painted icons represent the word of God and the Gospel.
More importantly, Ivan’s involvement in significant projects of the restoration and construction of several Nemanjics churches and monasteries in the Raska region of Serbia under the supervision of Mr. Veljko Vuckovic from the Republic Institute for Protection of Monuments from Kraljevo, Serbia. Ivan has masterfully manufactured hand-painted frames and icons for Davidovica Monastery dating from the 13th century, and Kumanice Monastery dating from the 14th century, which graces the walls and altars until this day.
On top of, Ivan is skilled in wood carving and he has appended artistry of hand-made carved chandelier with 24 icons with the images of Serbian Saints for Davidovica monastery in 2000 and similarly, in 2016 for the Kumanica monastery. Likewise, Ivan produced a uniquely decorated coffin for St. Gregory of Kumanica as a gift to the Kumanica Monastery.
The most precious gem of all of Ivan’s frescoes and icons is a richly carved and skillfully painted Crucifixion in the Mileseva Monastery dating from the 13th century that still adorns the altar wall; a similar crucifix, but slightly larger, hangs in St. Nicholas of Zhicha located in Kolovrat, Prijepolje, Serbia.
Another exceptional and distinctive creation by Ivan is the hand-painted icons for the royal doors in the Church of the Nativity in Zlatar near Nova Varos, Serbia. A mosaic of Saint John the Forerunner of the same name as the church from the 9th century in Zaton near Bijelo Polje, Montenegro; and frescoes in the chapel of St. John the Baptist in the Kumanica Monastery. In addition to, Ivan has reproduced a number of times, well-known White Angel of Mileseva, of equal quality as the original fresco from the 13th century.
Since 2006, Ivan lives and continues to paint lovely Icons and frescoes in Novi Sad as well as working on the restoration and conservation of the frescoes in the Church of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin from the 18th century, in Sremska Kamenica, Serbia along with colleagues, painters & restorers, Mr. Djuro Radisic and Mr. Mario Vuknic under the supervision of the Institute for the Protection of Monuments of Vojvodina.
Ivan’s Icons have opened the windows to heaven for the Orthodox followers. With such grand and angelic Icons such as these painted by Ivan, it is an extraordinary task that uplifts one’s spirit and heart. And so, I am grateful for Ivan’s exceptional gifts and graces in my lifetime & the great opportunity to view his artworks of Orthodox Christian Icons.
Moreover, Ivan has graciously permitted me to share his story and exquisite icons in my Arts & Entertainment features. Due to his busy schedule and demand as an Iconographer, this feature is not an interview.
List of Ivan’s major works by year:
1998. – The iconostasis for monastery of the Baptism of the Christ – Davidovica XIII century, in Grobnice at Brodarevo. (Nemanjic’s endowment)
1998. – Obeisance icon of the Baptism of the Christ – the Epiphany, the Davidovica monastery.
1998. – The Crucifixion of Christ on the altar rail Milesevo monastery, XIII century, in Milesevo near Prijepolje. (Nemanjic’s endowment)
1999. – Three icons (Deisis) – Icon of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin and St. Arch. Gabriel, 3m x 1m Kumanica monastery. (Nemanjic’s endowment)
2000. – Depicted chapel, dedicated to St. Filaret Merciful, into the Bishop’s Palace at the Diocese Milesevo in Prijepolje.
2001. -Obeisance icon of St. Basil of Ostrog and obeisance Crucifixion of the Christ for the cathedral in Prijepolje.
2002. – The iconostasis for the monastery St. Archangel Gabriel – Kumanica, XIV century, in Vrbnica near Bijelo Polje – Montenegro. (Nemanjic’s endowment)
2002. -Obeisance icon and carved coffin for St. Gregory of Kumanica in the Kumanica monastery.
2002. – Painted and handmade carved chandelier, with 24 icons of Serbian Saints, 30cm x 20cm, in the monastery Kumanica.
2004. – The iconostasis for the Church of The Nativity of Christ in Zlatar – Panorama near Nova Varos.
2005. – The iconostasis for the monastery of Holy Trinity – Dubnica, XIV century, in Bozetici village near Nova Varos. (Nemanjic’s endowment)
2005. – Procession icon of St .Basil of Ostrog, 2m x 1m, for the cathedral in Prijepolje.
2008. – The iconostasis for the church of the Presentation of the Christ in Rance Polje near Pljevlja, Montenegro
2008. – The iconostasis for the church of St. Archbishop Sava in Sopotnica – Jadovnik.
2009. – The iconostasis for the church of St. Nicholas of Zhicha in Kolovrat near Prijepolje.
2010. – The iconostasis for the church of St. Prophet Elias in Jabuka near Pljevalja, Montenegro.
2010. – Icon of St. Prophet Elias, 2.4m x 1.2m, above the entrance to the church of the same name at Jabuka.
2011. – The iconostasis for the church of Saint George in Guke near Pljevalja, Montenegro.
2011. – Icon White Angel, 1.2m x 0.8m, for His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej.
2011. – Icon White Angel, 60 x 50 cm, for the Prime Minister of Russia Mr. Vladimir Putin.
2012. – The iconostasis for Monastery of St. Joachim and Anne – Janja in Rutosi – Kokin Brod near Nova Varos. (Nemanjic’s endowment)
2012. – Four icons of the Old Testament Prophets, to existing iconostasis in the Church of St. Nicholas of Zhicha in Kolovrat near Prijepolje.
2012. – The icon of Saint George, 115 x 65 cm, for the Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic.
2013. – Icon White Angel, 60 x 50 cm, for actress Monica Bellucci, which was presented by the Prime Minister of Serbia Ivica Dacic, at the Film Festival “Kustendorf” of Serbian film director Emir Kusturica.
2013. -Chandelier with 12 icons of the Holy Virgin, 30cm x 20cm, in the monastery of St. Joachim and Anne – Janja Monastery, in the village Rutosi near Nova Varos.
2013. – The iconostasis for Monastery of Holy Trinity, located between Prijepolje and Nova Varos in Gornja Bistrica.
2014. -Three frescoes in the dining hall of the Kumanica monastery – Holy Mother of God of Jerusalem, The Last Supper and Our Savior Jesus Christ, 1.20 x 1 m.
2015. – Three frescoes in the hall of the spiritual center of the Kumanica monastery. Frescoes: The Lord Great Archbishop and the adoration of Saints – Deisis, 1.35 x 1 m.
2015 – The frescoes in the summer chapel of the monastery Kumanica, dedicated to the St. John the Baptist. Composition: Adoration of the Holy Bishops to The Lamb, 2.5 x 7 m.
2016 – The mosaic of stone and glass, of St. John the Baptist, above the entrance to the church of Sv. John the Baptist (IX century) in Bijelo Polje (Zaton) – The Republic of Montenegro, 45 x 90 cm.
2016. – Polyeleos (Horos) in Davidovica Monastery (XIII century), the Republic of Serbia. Hand-carved wood with 24 icons 34 x 20 cm. Acrylic on canvas lay on panel, 27 x 40 x 76 cm, with a diameter of 3 meters. (Nemanjic’s endowment).
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