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Questions about iconography...

Discussion in 'The Ancient Way - Eastern Orthodox' started by Michael G, Jan 9, 2009.

  1. Michael G

    Michael G Abe Frohmann

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    This is a thread for anyone who has questions about iconography to post them for the 3 iconographers on TAW (Michael the Iconographer, Nutroll, and Julia) to answer. This is not a debate thread and I ask that you would kindly refrain from debating the answers given by the iconographers on this thread. I am also asking the mods to sticky this thread so that anyone new that comes into TAW will find the thread with relative ease.

    Now that I have requested the parameters of the thread please feel free to post any questions which you might have about Orthodox Iconography!
     
  2. Julina

    Julina Veteran

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    i was just wondering if it's ok to give a non-Orthodox Christian friend an icon as a gift

    and more generally, what mediums are and are not appropriate for icon writing?
     
  3. angrylittlefisherman

    angrylittlefisherman the worst of sinners

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    I second Julina's question. And also, out of curiosity, why do we say "writing and icon"?
     
  4. Giantsbran1227

    Giantsbran1227 The Sinner.

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    Can personal icons be bought for decoration in a house?

    Also why are icons such a huge part of orthodoxy?
     
  5. nutroll

    nutroll Veteran

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    well since there are questions and no answers yet, I'll jump in... I don't use the term "writing" to refer to an icon unless I am talking to someone who makes a point of using that term and I don't want to offend them. The same verb in greek can refer to writing and painting. Since I use paints and a paint brush, I say that I paint icons. Some people like to say that icons are like scriptures in pictures and as such they find the word "write" to be more appropriate. I don't think it matters either way, I just get a little irked when people insist that we must say "write."

    Icons are more than mere decorations, and shouldn't really be treated as a painting or a picture to hang on a wall. Icons are a visual proclamation that the God who created the world became a man for our salvation, that he suffered and died for us, that he rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven taking our human nature with Him. Furthermore they testify to the fact that Christians can be transformed back to the image and likeness of God, and that indeed God dwells within Christians and shines forth in those who live according to His will. They proclaim the same message that the Gospels do. Hanging an icon in your home or your church makes a profound statement. While icons can be decorative, they are not decorations. A Bible can be beautifully printed, bound with the finest materials, and filled with beautiful word, but it would be a mistake to see it as a work of art rather than as a means of encountering God.

    With that being said, I don't see a problem with giving icons to non-Orthodox people. It may draw them to Orthodoxy after all, but I would make sure that the person understands that it is not just a picture to you and that it should be treated with a certain degree of respect. Just as we would not toss the Bible on the floor or use it as a coaster on the table, an icon should be used as a reminder of what it represents. If your friend will not do that, I think it would be better to get them some other piece of art.

    I think that addresses all the questions except for materials. I don't know that there are really wrong materials for painting an icon (although there very well might be some exceptions depending on intent) but there are some that are more suitable than others. The one in particular that stands out as a poor choice for iconography is oil paints. Oil paints, due to their very long drying time are more suited to paintings with lots of blending, and not so much to the layered style of more traditional iconography. That being said, I know of an iconographer that works in oils and creates traditional looking icons. I just can't imagine how long he must wait for things to dry. Some people will say that egg tempera is the only correct medium for icons, but I disagree very strongly with such a statement. Icons have traditionally been done in encaustic (a method of painting with melted wax and pigments), fresco (painting in wet plaster), egg tempera, acrylic paints (in the years since acrylic polymers have been created), and of course mosaic. I'm sure there are many other materials that have been used over the centuries, and many more that could be used.
     
  6. Michael G

    Michael G Abe Frohmann

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    Icons are a huge part of Orthodox Christianity because the iconography of the Orthodox Church is a visual record of the teachings and beliefs of the Orthodox Church. I will write more on this later, but as for now I am tired because I just got home from a long day at work.
     
  7. Tonks

    Tonks No longer here Supporter

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    Can someone give a quick rundown of the theology behind the colors used in iconography? It seems I learn this every three months, promptly forget, and then cannot find the resource that I used to learn about it in the first place.
     
  8. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

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    Hi,

    I recall watching a program a number of years ago on Icons. I remember someone on that program saying somthing about there being a "formula" for Iconography which traditional Iconographers followed. It was stated that this gave continuity and consistancy to the Icons, regardless of who wrote them, or what part of the world they were from.

    Where could I find more info about this?

    Mark
     
  9. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

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    I'll stick it up top for you.
     
  10. Julina

    Julina Veteran

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    i was thinking of sending a small icon of St. Michael the Archangel to a friend in the military
     
  11. Michael G

    Michael G Abe Frohmann

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    Either that, or maybe St. George. St. George is a patron of soldiers. I sent one of St. George to Bushmaster while he was in Iraq.
     
  12. Julina

    Julina Veteran

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    why does the Nativity icon depict events that are not from any of the canonical gospels?

    or why is this gospel not part of the canon?
     
  13. Giantsbran1227

    Giantsbran1227 The Sinner.

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    Im Still confused on the icon subject. So churches use them as a window to heaven? Im confused on exactly what that means... Also what caused the uprising of iconoclasts?
     
  14. Anhelyna

    Anhelyna Handmaid of God Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    I'm not quite sure what you are meaning here, Julina , when you say
    Is this a reference to the midwives which some Nativity Icons show ? I was told that this was to show Christ is man born of His Mother , and the midwives presence emphasise this
     
  15. Julina

    Julina Veteran

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    yes, and there were other things too, like Jesus being born in a cave instead of a stable
     
  16. nutroll

    nutroll Veteran

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    The reason why there are scenes in the Nativity icon (and other icons as well) that are not directly taken from the canonical gospels is that the Orthodox Church does not view the gospels as the only source of truth. There are things like the ox and the ass that are not from the gospels but are a reference to Isaiah 1. Then there are things like the midwives that are depicted to show that Christ was every bit as human as any of us and needed to be attended to and cared for as any human child would. Many of the scenes in festal icons come from the hymns of the church, which in turn draw on scripture, but are not limited to scripture. As for Jesus being born in a cave, instead of a stable, this is based in a misconception. It never says in the Bible that Jesus was born in a shack made out of wood, it says he was laid in a manger, which is actually more like a trough for food, and animals were more often sheltered in caves than in structures that were specifically built to house animals.
     
  17. nutroll

    nutroll Veteran

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    Referring to Icons as windows to heaven is a convenient metaphor, but I wouldn't take it too far. Icons are meant to depict heavenly realities more so than earthly realities. They are intended to focus our thoughts on the kingdom of heaven rather than on the things of this world. The look of icons is greatly influenced by their intended purpose. As such, icons are a way of gazing upon heaven, albeit in a way that will be surpassed when we see it for real when Christ returns.

    Iconoclasm came about for a number of reasons. I think many people would like to think that Iconoclasm came about because of the OT prohibition of images, but I think this would be a very inaccurate depiction of Iconoclasm. Some of the drive to remove icons from the church had to do with genuine abuses. There is an account of some priests who had actually started to add chips of paint from icons to the Eucharist as though this would somehow make it holier. These abuses were a very legitimate cause for alarm. A desire to react against abuses and an increasing influence from Islam had a great influence on the development of the iconoclast movement. Ironically it was Scripture that was used to defend the use of icons.
     
  18. ikonographics

    ikonographics In patience I waited patiently on the Lord

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    In Palestine at that time caves were used as stables
     
  19. Michael G

    Michael G Abe Frohmann

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    The cave is a metaphor. The ray of light that is in the middle of the icon permeates the darkness. Christ has enlightened the world which was dark with sin. Not everything in icons is literal, there are often metaphors used that do come straight out of scripture!
     
  20. nutroll

    nutroll Veteran

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    I think it would be fair to say that the cave is both metaphorical and historical. Christ was likely born in a cave, not in a man-made structure. In our hymnography we refer to the cave as a gift from the earth itself to the Master of all Creation at the time of His Nativity in the flesh. It does symbolize the coming of the light of the world into the darkness, but it is meant to depict reality just as much as it is meant to depict the meaning of the event.
     
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