MARGARET MORRIS was born in Washington D.C. in 1929. In 1949 she graduated from Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, having majored in French. She met her husband, John Cloake, a British diplomat, when they were serving in their countries’ respective diplomatic missions in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1952. They married in 1956, and she accompanied her husband on postings to New York, Moscow, Tehran and finally Sofia, where he served as British Ambassador to Bulgaria from 1976 to 1980. A product of their time in Tehran was her translation, editing and first publication in English, under the title A Persian at the Court of King George, of the diary kept by Abol Hassan Khan, Persian Ambassador to London in 1809-10.

In Sofia Margaret Cloake became fascinated by the icons of the Orthodox Church, displayed in many museums in Bulgaria and published in many Bulgarian books. She realised that many of those depicting the festivals of the church showed scenes that were not immediately recognisable to one brought up in the traditions of western Christian art, or had elements that differed from those traditions or were otherwise difficult to interpret.

Of the many books on icons, in whatever language, that she could find, none provided “a child’s guide to what is going on in the picture”. So she decided to write one. This is it.

It has not been published until now. It was being privately published to celebrate her 80th birthday, but as she died in July 2008 it stands as a memorial. It is illustrated, as was always her intention, entirely with Bulgarian icons, a rich source which has been largely overlooked in the west.

Festival Icons of the Orthodox Church

by Margaret Morris Cloake