Saint Javelin

An original Saint Javelin painting by Chris Shaw is currently on exhibit through February 2023 at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, MO, USA.

From the exhibit:

“This popular and moving contemporary painting became an online phenomenon in March 2022 as a symbol for the Ukrainian resistance movement. Mass production and public consumption of images of Christian saints in the environment of war began in WWI, and this unique temporary exhibition will display Saint Javelin in the context of historical prints from the National WWI Museum and Memorial’s collection.”  

More info:

Learn more about Saint Javelin, and religious icons in war HERE .

From the artist: 

“My first painting of Sant Javelin was large and on canvas, I felt limited with some materials I was able to use, and also felt that I wanted to create the image at a more intimate size. I decided to create an icon on wood, and to create something that was both image and object.  Perhaps as an artist’s reaction to Saint Javelin’s viral propagation as a digital image – I wanted the real-world art to be textured, dimensional, and used special colors with rich gold leaf, all things that cant be reproduced digitally or in print.  The icon was painted over two months, completed in late June 2022.

“It’s a honor to have Saint Javelin on exhibit at the National WWI Museum and Memorial, I love that she can be seen by so many people and that the art continues to provoke discussion.”   – Chris Shaw

Special thanks to Patricia Cecil and the National WWI Museum and Memorial for facilitation of this exhibit, and Christian Borys for his generous loan of the art.

Saint Javelin

18” x 24” Acrylic with glass on board, gold and metal leaf, on wood panel


Social media photos: @GhostIn_TheCity via Twitter


Saint Javelin Painting by Chris Shaw

On April 3, 2022, in Art, Paintings, Video, by Chris Shaw
Saint Javelin by Chris Shaw, 2022

When Saint Javelin became a viral meme in February 2022 one of the first things I did was to remake the image by my own hand.  Perhaps it was a futile attempt to reclaim my art from the internet somehow, or maybe it was just that the first viral alteration was a bit sloppy in places.  St. Javelin has since circled the globe both digitally and physically printed. and continues to show up in some amazing places, it’s been fascinating to watch and experience.  (See my previous posts on St. Javelin and her origin as Madonna Kalashnikov)

As the original artist, I wanted to make my “official” Saint Javelin painting be something that would stand out from anything printed or digital, but not vary too far from the original form.  With a pure cadmium green base, I used subtle glazing to build up deep transparent tones in the robes.  Multiple thick layers of black for line art are used to bring texture around smoothly painted areas of color.  The background is gold leaf over a red base, then buffed and varnished like a traditional icon.  

The Saint Javelin painting is 30” x 40”, acrylic and metal leaf on canvas, completed in March 2022.

Please inquire for info on this artwork or to commission your own custom Icon.

Start to finish in a minute and a half (no sound).

Saint Javelin artwork by Chris Shaw

I woke up a couple weeks ago to find an image of “Saint Javelin” going viral all over the internet as a meme.  St. Javelin is a digital alteration of my 2012 painting, “Madonna Kalashnikov”.   

It’s been a humbling experience to watch as the Ukrainian people adopted the Saint Javelin image as an icon of resistance against the Russian invasion and to see it transform into a global symbol of support for Ukraine.  Worldwide, media has been calling her a’ Symbol of Resistance’ or the ‘Face of the Conflict’ .  As the artist who drew that face, I’ve been in awestruck to see what has become of my art.

An image of my Madonna Kalashnikov painting had already made its way around the internet and into Ukraine and Eastern Europe some years ago. Madonna Kalashnikov has been a popular tattoo, used on military patches, and unfortunately, bootlegged onto all kinds of merchandise. (See my post Madonna Kalashnikov – 2022)

In 2018 someone in Ukraine altered an image of the Madonna Kalashnikov painting to make the figure hold a Javelin missile launcher and posted it on Twitter, she was named “Saint Javelin” shortly after.  That image didn’t really go anywhere until February 2022 when it appeared again amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and eventually went viral as “Saint Javelin the Protector of Ukraine”.

It seemed almost instantaneous, St. Javelin was printed on stickers, shirts, flags – everything.  Suddenly, hundreds of items and variations of the art appeared – dozens of pages of on Amazon and Etsy are now devoted to selling St Javelin stuff.   A Saint Javelin website selling stickers with the image was set up – the stickers themselves went viral – leading to more coverage in the media.  Currently, the St. Javelin stickers have raised over a million dollars to aid Ukraine.  

In the last week or so, the meme has not seemed to have slowed, just changed.  As that has happened, she’s spawned many different versions, theres a cool anime version, a Lego version, a 3-D printed version, and dozens of others.  St. Javelin has evolved from an image into a character, maybe even a real icon. 

Being the original artist, thats all pretty cool, but I also have mixed feelings.

As an artist who paints modern icons, designs political posters, and has a deep love of politics, media, and propaganda, the miraculous appearance of St. Javelin seems like a strange dream.  For people to organically adopt her as a real symbol of resistance and strength during an invasion is, again, very humbling.  For St. Javelin to become an image helping to aid relief and show solidarity with Ukraine is amazing.  Now that she is everywhere, I want her to do good.

On the other hand, it’s been frustrating to lose all control over my art.  Especially watching profiteers producing merchandise, for profit. When the internet steals your work, it’s important to try to take it back. I remade the art properly, creating an official ‘made by the artist’ version of Saint Javelin.  

I need to address that Saint Javelin has also come to symbolize many different things to different people.  Her use as a warmonger is deeply disturbing to me.  I don’t like that the Javelin missile system itself has been nicknamed “St. Javelin”, a viral Tweet nicknaming her “St. Raytheon” was on-point.  The St. Javelin image featured in the TikTok memes of missiles hitting targets garnering hundreds of millions of views makes me upset.  I’m abhorred by her use to cheer on an actual war.

At this point, I don’t know where Saint Javelin will end up, but I do hope she remains a symbol of freedom, strength, and good.  I’ll probably make a painting of her, then move on to the next thing.  Most, I hope St. Javelin will help Ukraine, and the money raised by those using the her image will make a positive difference to someone.  


History of the St. Javelin meme at KnowYourMeme

Madonna Kalashnikov (2012)

Madonna Kalashnikov (2013)

Madonna Kalashnikov (2022)

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