Icon of Saint Teresa of Avila, private commission, 2021.

Cm 20 x 25.

Solid wood,


24 carat gold leaf,

egg-yolk tempera.

by the hand of Veronica Jane Gatti.

“Let our soul trust in the goodness of God, which is greater than all the evil we can do. When, with full knowledge of ourselves, we desire to return to friendship with Him, He remembers neither our ingratitude nor our misuse of the favours that He has granted us. He might well chastise us for these sins, but in fact He makes use of them only to forgive us the more readily, just as He would forgive those who have been members of His household, and who, as they say, have eaten of His bread. Let them remember His words and consider what He has done to me, who wearied of offending His Majesty before He ceased forgiving me. Never does He weary of giving and never can His mercies be exhausted: let us, then, not grow weary of receiving. May He be blessed for ever, Amen, and may all things praise Him.”

Life of Saint Teresa of Avila, chapter XIX

In this icon St Teresa is surrounded by the divine light and her facial lineaments recall the face of Jesus and Our Lady because she is represented transfigured in the eternal glory. This aspect is crucial in the antique canon established in Christian art during the first centuries of the Church: as God became a man in the person of Jesus He revealed to us both his human and divine nature, allowing us to represent Him. According to the canon of Iconography Saints are depicted as an image that shows their resemblance of God rather than a portrait. Looking at the sacred icons, along with praying, can help us in our path towards the likeness to Jesus. “All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.’’ (2 Cor 3,18).

Others features and symbols visible in the icon help us to recognise the Saints and to remember their lives, works and miracles. Saint Teresa has the traditional Carmelite habit, that consists of the brown tunic and scapular of Our Lady, the white toque over the head and shoulders and a black veil. The veil is illuminated by the divine light.

She holds a scroll in her left hand and a quill pen in her right hand, as a symbol of her writings. One of the great mystics and religious women of the Roman Catholic Church, and author of spiritual classics she was elevated to doctor of the church in 1970 by Pope Paul VI, the first woman to be so honoured. The words on the scroll remind us of the consciousness of Teresa in God inexhaustible mercy and her tireless effort to communicate the goodness of God through her writings. Her right-hand fingers shape the letters IC XC. The letters are an abbreviation for the Greek words Jesus (IHCOYC) Christ (XPICTOC). This hand leads our attention to Christ who is blessing saint Teresa. He wears an orange mantle, enlightened by thin lines of gold called assist: the golden light is a symbol of the divine wisdom that the Incarnation of the Son brought to humanity.

Peter Paul Rubens, Teresa of Avila, 1615, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.