Detail, Wall Painting, Old Church of St. Mary of Zion, Axum, Ethiopia
Image by A.Davey
I wish I had photographed the whole panel and not just the figure’s head. But now that I’ve learned a little more about Ethiopian Christian Orthodox art from viewers, I’m going to identify this image as "Saint Gebre Menfes Kidus, more popularly known as Saint Abbo, who founded the monastery on Mount Zuqwala (various spellings)."
Why? You might say a little bird told me.
Seriously, though, the elements in this image are virtually identical to those in a painting I photographed in Lalibela. Both paintings depict a man with a flowing beard and odd clothing standing with upraised hands, while a little bird flutters next to his head. It was the bird’s presence in both paintings that made the connection for me.
I like the bird in both paintings, but the odd little creature in the Lalibela version of this image is my favorite because it looks like a penguin hand puppet with little hands.
Flickerite PJBayens kindly identified the figure in the Lalibela painting as Saint Abbo. You can see the Lalibela painting below, together with PJBayens’ full comments.