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Indigenous Icons: Has Anyone Ever Come Across Any and Why are more not done?

Discussion in 'Traditional Theology' started by Gxg (G²), Feb 24, 2015.

  1. MKJ

    MKJ Contributor

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    You know, I don't think anyone really disagrees with this, but it is a very fine line to walk, and frankly I think it affects those cultures which have a long history of Christianity as much as those that don't. In fact, it may be that it is even more a problem for them, because those who are adapting a use know clearly what is specifically Christian and what isn't, and are forced to think about it, but it is very very easy for others to imagine that their own tradition is purely and simply Christian.
     
  2. Gxg (G²)

    Gxg (G²) Pilgrim/Monastic on the Road to God (Psalm 84:1-7) CF Ambassadors Supporter

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    That makes sense....
     
  3. Thekla

    Thekla Guest

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    Always there are fine lines, and imo Christianity requires of the adherent constant vigilence regardless of cultural background.

    But what is interesting in the matter from what I can see (and have experienced firsthand) is the radical shift and concomitant sacrifice.

    In the matter of the Greek community, there is an awareness of both the seeping of Christianity into the culture (among Orthodox) and this radical shift.

    My own (Greek) family, who left Orthodoxy 3 generations before me, always refer to themselves not as Greeks but specifically Hellenes. The recognition of ancient Hellenic culture is prominent in all aspects of my family, from the particular approach to things, to naming (my cousins have children with names like Io and Thales), profession (Philosophy, Anthropology, teaching, etc.). Spouses who marry in are, in my family's terminology, "Hellenized" (though we are a multi-cultural group). My grandfather had a beautiful and deep Christian faith, and this always shone through everything he did and even his very manner. (Though now we number likely more atheists than Christians.)

    When I mentioned to my spiritual father that our family uses the term "Hellene" for ourselves, he smiled and noted that for Greeks this was akin to calling oneself pagan. There is still this awareness it seems of the prominence of the Christianization of the Greeks (though there is also a pride and recognition of culture, it seems secondary).

    But this is not just about the Greek Orthodox break with the past ... at least in the Iconography, the same seems to occur throughout the various Orthodox ethnoi. At least a look at the Art vis a vis the Iconography indicates this.

    For non-Orthodox Christianization, this seems out of bounds for me to really respond to. Of course within Orthodox culture, there is secular Art with Christian themes (Feast Day carols, Art, Literature, etc.). So likewise in other cultures the forms of extra-Liturgical expression may carry forth both the earlier forms and (a core feature of all the Arts) the continuing dialogue with the past in the present. Here, the previous culture may be more likely carried. And there are traces of this in Iconography, in Chant, etc. within the Liturgical context as well (the use of some of the Pythagorean modes in the east, trimmed and refitted by St. John of Damascus, the particularity of Iconography for each though still mutually intelligible).
     
  4. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

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    Culture has always influenced art. Art historians hold up the Ghent Altar Piece as one of the most significant examples of Flemish art:

    [​IMG]

    In reformation era Germany, the likes of Cranach and Drurer are held up as examples of that era from that culture:
    Albrecht Drurer [​IMG]
    Almost everyone, protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and everyone else may not know the name of the artist, but do recognize Drurer's praying hands: [​IMG]

    Altarpieces by Lucas Cranach:[​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    All of the above, influenced by their respective cultures.:)
     
  5. Gxg (G²)

    Gxg (G²) Pilgrim/Monastic on the Road to God (Psalm 84:1-7) CF Ambassadors Supporter

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    I think a good question would be asking "How to know when art was influenced by the culture - or when culture was influenced by art?"
     
  6. Gxg (G²)

    Gxg (G²) Pilgrim/Monastic on the Road to God (Psalm 84:1-7) CF Ambassadors Supporter

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    I can definitely get that iconography had influences from other cultures beyond the Byzantine world when seeing Egyptian and Jewish cultural presentations and thus tracing the roots of things makes a world of difference :)

    I just wonder how differently things would have looked if the center of civilization that iconography developed happened outside of the Byzantine context. In example, after the Jewish and Egyptian influences - if the center of Christian thought had shifted to the Mongols in East Asia, how different would things have looked...Or if the Jewish influences were built upon from the Jewish communities within the Indian context/culture and then things went from there

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]



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    Here's one example, of course, of Indian Madonna and Christ

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Gxg (G²)

    Gxg (G²) Pilgrim/Monastic on the Road to God (Psalm 84:1-7) CF Ambassadors Supporter

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    Icons that stood out a lot...

    This one is the Virgin of Tenderness, from the School of the Greek Islands, 17th century. It is a part of a collection of rare portraits of the Virgin Mary - from St. George and St. Anthony Coptic Orthodox Church, Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt

    [​IMG]


    And here are more Ethiopian Icons...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Additionally, here is an icon (Coptic) of Jesus Christ sitting on the throne of glory surrounded in a symbolic form by the four apostles - for in Christ’s left hand is a scroll, which bears a verse from the Bible, and inside the nimbus around Christ’s head is another verse from the Bible, surmounted with a third verse in red ink. This icon was created by Ibrahim and Uhanna the Armenian in 1464 Coptic calendar (1748 AD) - An icon at Alexandria Library, Egypt.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2015
  8. Gxg (G²)

    Gxg (G²) Pilgrim/Monastic on the Road to God (Psalm 84:1-7) CF Ambassadors Supporter

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    [​IMG]


    I think that as a long as a dialogue is occurring with the past, then that's what should be considered when it comes to the ways that the world develops today - I makes a world of difference when knowing how things are more so like links in a chain - each connecting each thing together...

    And the styles have shifted greatly in time. Here's one, for example, showing Christ driving out the merchants...


    [​IMG]

    And another showing his transfiguration (Miniature from an Armenian Gospel (Ms 6201. Fol 6). 1038. Matenadaran, Yerevan, Armenia).

    [​IMG]

    And for more...


    [​IMG]






    Here, for example, is Khludov Psalter (detail), 9th century. The image represents the Iconoclast theologian, John Grammaticus

    [​IMG]


    And of course, here i (as well as another) - some of the saints who were against icons, ironically..

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2015
  9. Gxg (G²)

    Gxg (G²) Pilgrim/Monastic on the Road to God (Psalm 84:1-7) CF Ambassadors Supporter

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    I think a very good question to consider on the issue would be along the lines of "How many Indigenous Saints do you see reflected in Iconography itself within the Orthodox world" - in addition to the previous question of what you presented when wondering what elements can either be kept or altered to create specifically Orthodox (or Christian in general) Iconography.


    In example, this is one of the few examples of Indigenous icons I can see as it's explictly Native American in features.

    [​IMG]

    As another noted wisely on him:

    Another Alaskan saint is Peter the Aleut. He was born in Kodiak in the late 1700s. While in his teens he accompanied Russian fur trappers to northern California. In 1815, while hunting in his kayak south of San Francisco he was captured by Spanish soldiers. He refused to be rebaptized insisting that he was already a Christian. In their zeal to convert Peter the Roman Catholic priests cruelly dismembered his hands and feet. Today he is known as the “Martyr of San Francisco.”​


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    And In example, of course we have others from the Boxer Rebellion who are Martyrs - such as St.Mitrophan Chinese Martyr of the Boxer Rebellion and the other Chinese Martyrs

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
  10. Gxg (G²)

    Gxg (G²) Pilgrim/Monastic on the Road to God (Psalm 84:1-7) CF Ambassadors Supporter

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    The Mummy portraits were very noteworthy in the depictions of features present and how they were symbolized in a manner reflecting the actual people in their culture for how their culture was...

    And as it concerns the Dura Europos

    Some of the depictions of synagouges are fascinating when seeing how they were designed. Some of the artwork they have present today in some synagouges is truly stunning, be it those from the early church or those in modern day times:

    From United Orthodox Synagogues:​



    [​IMG]

    And with the Dura Europos, there has been discussion elsewhere on that subject before - as seen here:

     
  11. Gxg (G²)

    Gxg (G²) Pilgrim/Monastic on the Road to God (Psalm 84:1-7) CF Ambassadors Supporter

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    Thanks for those, as they did come in handy...
     
  12. Gxg (G²)

    Gxg (G²) Pilgrim/Monastic on the Road to God (Psalm 84:1-7) CF Ambassadors Supporter

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    .

    For starters, there can really be no avoiding the reality that certain hand gestures in the Greek world were never limited to those areas - they did the same hand gestures globally, as seen in Tibet when it came to Buddhism..



    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    The symbolic hand gestures of Buddha are called mudras - although for those who do not yet know Christ, when seeing Budda do it, it means something radically different than how it comes to be reinterpreted when seeing believers present it. And thus we cannot limit things to the West as if they had the monopoly on a hand gesture - although we can say that within a Christian context, they mean certain things (and these gestures themselves already developed within Roman Culture itself prior to the rise of Christianity anyhow) - but seeing that these hand gestures referred to as mudras in an Indian or Buddhist context differ, what really seems to be present is the religious context.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Again, Pictographic imagery in ancient writings is quite common....and in fact, it seems to go as far back (With hand gestures) as Egyptian hieroglyphics - and imagery symbols as well, as it concerns the Cherubim...



    [​IMG]




    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

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    [​IMG]




    And of course, we know that imagery and hand gestures is very clear in Israels worship depicted in OT scripture. ie. hands that were waving the sheaf, pouring out, washing hands etc. Imagery such as tablets of commandments, the ark of the covenant, Aarons rod, manna in the ark, Israels tribal pictures etc.....but it was never limited to being something that only Christians in the West could say "You HAVE to do it like us since we made it up"


    That said...

    I do wonder on that, however, in light of the fact that hand signage is not always used in all forms of icons. There are plenty, for example, where the Lord is described in non-human terms (as some cultures do likewise with their religious figures) - like showing the Lord as the Lamb of God when it comes to noting " Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
    (Rev. 5:11)"

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2015
  13. Gxg (G²)

    Gxg (G²) Pilgrim/Monastic on the Road to God (Psalm 84:1-7) CF Ambassadors Supporter

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    It's cool witnessing the ways that culture influences art on so many different levels - I really enjoyed this piece as an example of that, where Zaccheus Meets Jesus

    [​IMG]


    And this one is the dedication of Jesus:

    [​IMG]

    And of course, outside of that, here's Jesus loves children - Chinese style

    [​IMG]

    In addition to that, this is the "Our Lady of China"

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This one is of the women arriving at the tomb after Jesus rose - and the Baptism of Christ:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This one is of Jesus in Japan:

    [​IMG]

    Additionally, these on the life of Christ are very noteworthy as it concerns the Thai Style...

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    This one is fascinating as well, as it concerns Jesus's life - from Thailand

    [​IMG]

    Finally, this one (by Sawai Chinnawong ) depicts Mary listening to Jesus with her sister Martha on background.... Bible narratives in the Thai setting. While the second one is Jesus praying in Gethsemane in the style of Thangka paintings

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2015
  14. George95

    George95 CF Tech Master Staff Member Red Team - Moderator CF Senior Ambassador Supporter

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    Maybe it's because I'm used to the Byzantine/Greek style of icons, particularly mosaics, but I've never been a fan of indigenous icons.
     
  15. Tigger45

    Tigger45 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Wow, all I can say is they are very interesting and very beautiful.

    Great thread!
     
  16. Gxg (G²)

    Gxg (G²) Pilgrim/Monastic on the Road to God (Psalm 84:1-7) CF Ambassadors Supporter

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    Definitely understand - as everyone is different in their leanings. I find myself appreciating both the Byzantine/Greek style and other things outside of it..

    One I actually came across today which really stood out to me - from Ethiopian Orthodox in Jamaica (specifically Assumpta Tafari Tafrow), the Virgn Saint Maryam and Her Son ~ with Archangel St. Mikael and With Salutation to Archangel Saint Gabriel,the Angel of the Annunciation


    [​IMG]

    And for others...

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2015
  17. Gxg (G²)

    Gxg (G²) Pilgrim/Monastic on the Road to God (Psalm 84:1-7) CF Ambassadors Supporter

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    Thanks for the encouragement and glad to know things were a blessing. If there are any that stood out to you, would love to hear...
     
  18. Gxg (G²)

    Gxg (G²) Pilgrim/Monastic on the Road to God (Psalm 84:1-7) CF Ambassadors Supporter

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    One of Jesus as it concerns "The Word became Flesh" like John 1 says...

    [​IMG]

    Here's One of Adam and Eve....sadao_watanabe

    [​IMG]

    Heqi-jesus aswell as Noah and the Ark..

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    Additionally, Jesus-Thangka and the Jerusalem-entry AS Well as Mary-Martha

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    [​IMG]

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    And Japanese Mary & Jesus

    [​IMG]

    Additionally, Philippino Jesus

    [​IMG]


    One of my favorites....as it's a Russian icon/

    [​IMG]



    Of course, it cannot compare to the ways other icons have been done within the Russian Orthodox world:

    [​IMG]


    Nonetheless, there are others which truly do stand out even if not in line with the Byzantine style - with this one here being one example...

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2015
  19. Thekla

    Thekla Guest

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    I am not limiting hand gestures to the west, or even to cultures within the west; in fact, I am noting the origin of this particular sign to the spelling out of a particular Christian meaning in the language of the Gospel (Greek). And noting also, within Christian history, the origin of the hand-blessing in Jewish practice, and the continuance of the use of hand-blessing among Christians, but corrected/updated to include the identification of Jesus Christ and Christian understanding.

    From the same site:

    Symbolism of the Blessing
    The fingers spell out “IC XC”, a widely used four letter abbreviation of the Greek for Jesus (IHCOYC) Christ (XPICTOC). It is by the name of Jesus that we are saved and receive blessings: “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;” (Phil 2:10).

    The three fingers of Christ – as well as spelling out “I” and “X” – confess the Tri-unity of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The touching finger and thumb of Jesus not only spell out “C”, but attest to the Incarnation: to the joining of divine and human natures found in the body of Jesus Christ.


    Thus, in iconography there is a particular and very specific meaning to the hand-sign which is maintained in iconography regardless of the particular language of the particular iconographer.

    As hand signs in general are not typically (in the ancient cultures under discussion) known, nor even the cultural origin (ex.: were the Roman hand signs shown ubiquitous, were they adopted from other cultures, did other cultures that became Christian use these signs or did they give up particular hand-signs ?) then it becomes difficult to know much else about them. That they were adopted in iconography, to form a common visual language can be demonstrated by looking.

    This is not unlike the adoption of certain Biblical phrases into the vernacular, or Christian concepts, or even the specialization of existing terms away from their vernacular meaning. This is a sort of "steeping" of a language/culture in the Scriptures.

    The same phenomenon can be traced in the English language, for example, by studying phrases, now common, from Shakespeare. I don't think it is possible to say for sure whether all of these were indeed Shakespeare's invention.

    But one could argue that Orthodox Churches in the British Isles or in the States should use Shakespearian phrases instead of Biblical phrases/illustrations in the worship in order to be authentically British, or English, or USAmerican.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 17, 2015
  20. Thekla

    Thekla Guest

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    Yes of course it is; I agree.



    And non-hand sign icons abound as well; but again, these visual images as you have noted above are still in the visual language of the Scriptures.

    It is not western cultures imposing their hand-signs on other cultures per se, but holding in many cases a Scriptural standard to the language of the image. In other cases, it is the repeated use of this visual language that has made the language for Orthodox universal - no matter what the particular hand-signs were in the receiving culture.

    And the hand blessing signs (spelling Christ) were not "made up". They reflect Scripture (like the use of the footstool, or Christ having His feet in a particular place in the icon "the Harrowing of Hell" and the Biblical phrase "make ... enemies the footstool of your feet").

    Remember, many of these now Orthodox cultures had no written language which would suggest they used hand-signs for communication.

    Either the Roman signs were universal by the time of the conversion of the Slavs, or they adopted the existing hand-signs in iconography instead of their own.
     
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