ASTASI AL-RUMI, or Eustathius the Greek
One of the most productive painters of Coptic icons in the latter part of the nineteenth century. An Arabic-speaking Greek iconographer from Jerusalem, he worked in Egypt for a period of approximately thirty- five years, from 1836 to 1871. Most of his many icons, which were commissioned either by Coptic priests or by Coptic notables, were painted in Cairo, where he lived in the HARIT AL-RUM. Many of his icons were produced during the iconoclastic controversy within the Coptic church, when the Patriarch CYRIL IV ordered the destruction of many icons, particularly in Upper Egypt.
There is no evidence that Astasi was familiar with the Greek, Coptic, or Latin script, and his errors on inscriptions indicate that he was unfamiliar with the Greek and the Latin alphabets. He painted all his icons on wood, a noteworthy fact because during the nineteenth century most Coptic icons were painted on canvas. In addition, he adorned numerous chalice arks with his paintings. In all instances, he added to the bottom of his paintings an Arabic text in the form of a votive inscription including his name and the date. In most cases, he used the Coptic calendar and in some instances the Islamic calendar.
His subjects can be divided into three groups: the Holy Virgin and Child, the feasts of the church, and the saints of the church. Astasi’s icons are found in the Coptic churches of Old Cairo, the Harit al-Rum, the HARIT ZUWAYLAH, the churches of the monasteries of the Wadi al-Natrun, the Monastery of the Holy Virgin (DAYR AL-MUHARRAQ), the Church of the Holy Virgin, JABAL AL-TAYR, and ASYUT.
- Meinardus, O. “The Iconography of Astasi al-Rumi.” Studia Orientalia Christiana Aegyptiaca, Collectanea 14 (1970-1971):377-97.