Bedour Latif and Youssef Nassif

→ See the Icons in St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church (Scarborough)

Last Supper above Royal Altar doorDr. Bedour Latif Gorgi
1922-March 24, 2012
1946 B.A. in Fine Arts;
1961 Diploma from the Institute of Coptic Studies in Art and Architecture;
1963 Professor of Visual Arts at the Institute of Coptic Studies where she continued to teach until retirement.

Dr. Youssef Nassif
1920 – October 9, 2013
1961 B.A. In Fine Arts and Coptic Art and Archeology;
1961 Diploma in Antiquities and ancient Egyptian Languages;
1963 he was appointed Professor of Coptic Studies and Deputy Director at the Art Department Institute of Coptic Studies until retirement.

Drs. Bedour Latif and Youssef Nassif met as students in the Institute of Coptic Studies in Cairo and have been married and writing icons for well over 50 years. In the early days of artistic development, they studied for a brief period in Italy. Youssef and Bedour were contemporaries of Dr. Isaac Fanous and together with him took the lead in the renaissance of Coptic culture and art since the 1950s.

Bedour and Youssef constantly searched to create a genuine Coptic style of iconography in form, essence and imagery:

  • Historically they have also been influenced by ancient Egyptian art and the Fayoum portraits which are recognized in iconography as the precursors of icons
  • Their strongest influences were the pioneers of contemporary Coptic art: Raghed Ayyad, Habib Georgi, Marguerite Nakhla, Dr. Aziz Sourial, Ramsis Wissa Wassef, among others.
  • When they researched and studied art from other cultures they challenged themselves to create the “Coptic difference” or the uniqueness of what is Coptic.

Their icons are signed jointly. When asked how they actually worked this out, this was their answer: In her transparent genuiness, Bedour said: “We met in art and live and work in that harmony.” In humour but with subtlety of meaning, Youssef responded with: “Four eyes can see more than two!” They touch each other’s brush to the extent that neither of them knows what the other has done even though they may have shared some pointers in the process. In effect their final work is a true unity of their brush and their spirituality. It is a harmony that captures the meditative and prayful expression of the saintly images they depict. The expression of Christ the Pantocrator at St. Mark’s Church “welcomes” believers” to the Kingdom of God The almond shaped eyes and gentle shape of the lips is a dominant feature in the expressions of their icons..

As deeply spiritual people, Youssef and Bedour pray and would read about the saint’s life to capture the spiritual message in the form of art:
Bedour: “[so that] it is not just art that is created but a spiritual message that is communicated.”.

Bedour and Youssef have written icons for many churches, some which are:

    • in Egypt including St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in El Abasseya, Cairo
    • in Canada: Toronto and Montreal
    • in the US: Rhodes Island ( St. Mary and Mari Mena Church 1992); Atlanta (St. Mary’s Church); Texas (St. Anthony)
    • in Australia. Archangel Michael and St. Anthony, → See the Gallery

In addition to icons written on wood, their works include frescos and stained glass windows. the Coptic Museum of Canada’s CD Library has a CD of over 450 icons they have written the world over.

The icons on the iconostasis at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church, Scarborough, were completed in 1987 and those on the North and South walls in 1988 – a total of forty-one icons in addition to the fresco in the Royal Altar niche. The Coptic Museum of Canada’s collection also displays two of their icons.

One of the particularities of Bedour and Youssef style is what is sometimes called a “decorative” style. This however is not their intentions as every touch of their brush has a spiritual meaning. Note, for example, the icon of Last Supper with the sheaths of wheat on either side of the icon and the vine tree to symbolize the source of the bread and the wine on the Eucharist table. Asked about the significance of flowers at the feet of Our Lord Jesus Christ and saints they commented: “God created the earth and it was beautiful. At the feet of Our Lord and the saints we must also express the beauty of God’s creation.”

Drs. Bedour and Youssef are artists with many talents. the Coptic Museum of Canada has in its collection hand carved copper crosses, enamel on copper icons, fresco models and an intricate reproduction of a fifth century hand carved brass church chandelier with hand blown glass containers for the oil and wick. They have also donated amulets they have created by using ancient Egyptian “secret” techniques and materials.