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May 10, 2009 10:47 PM   Subscribe

The Temple Gallery in London has more than 200 items of Eastern Orthodox religious art, principally icons, on its website, both from the current exhibit as well as older pieces. Icons have been a part of Orthodox Christianity for centuries and they are loaded with meaning. The theology is elaborated upon in this essay on the history, principles and function of icons by iconographer Dr. George Kordis. One of the subjects of the essay is the Byzantine iconoclasm, a central event of which was the Seventh Ecumenical Council, depicted here in an icon. Here are some other icons I like: The Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia, St. Alypius the Stylite, Synaxis of the Archangels, Dormition of the Virgin and Presentation of Christ in the Temple. [Click on any image for a larger view]
posted by Kattullus (9 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm quite fond of this detail from the icon of The Seventh Ecumenical Council (a.k.a. Nicene Council 2: This Time It's Boogaloo). It's my current desktop wallpaper.
posted by Kattullus at 10:53 PM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love reading about Saint Alypius and other stylites, but I sometimes get my mental image of them crossed with the Chi-Lites standing on top of their pillars and dancing and singing in unison.
posted by pracowity at 1:05 AM on May 11, 2009


That's fascinating - thanks for posting this.
posted by patricio at 3:28 AM on May 11, 2009


Reading the links I realize that, man, we really have lost a great art form. No, I'm not talking about icongraphy, I'm talking about the ascribing of nicknames to leaders. Juana la Loca and her beau Felipe el Hermoso have been dead for 400 years and it really shows.

This is why I have taken it upon myself to hereby everafter bestow upon George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, the title of George Copronymus.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:21 AM on May 11, 2009


Nice post! I myself prefer Russian icons, but hey, as long as you cross yourself from right to left...
posted by languagehat at 6:39 AM on May 11, 2009


languagehat: I myself prefer Russian icons

Second Rome, Third Rome, it's no biggie… either is much better than those Johnny-come-latelies Eighth and Ninth Romes.
posted by Kattullus at 7:23 AM on May 11, 2009


The Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia

Worst martial arts style ever.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:30 AM on May 11, 2009


Pavel Florensky's book Iconostasis is another great treatise on the theology and doctrine of icons. He argues that the belief in icons—that their material form can be imbued with the ethereal spirit of a saint or other important religious figure—is a direct logical extension of the incarnation, ie. if God is made material in Jesus, the spiritual can be made material as well. Therefore when folks kiss or respect icons, they are directly respecting the spiritual figure "depicted" and not worshiping an idol. He even goes so far as to say that Rublev's Icon of the Trinity is proof of the existence of God, ie. if the trinity didn't exist, Rublev couldn't have painted it. He is literally painting the image of the invisible.

Unlike later Latinate style icons, which index real figures in life (their three dimensionality mimicking the way humans actually look), the two dimensionality of Russian Orthodox icons (and early Byzantine icons from Late Antiquity/early middle ages) are drawn to index the ethereal, otherworldliness of the individuals depicted (be they saints, God, etc.).
posted by whimsicalnymph at 8:07 AM on May 11, 2009


I have an icon of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa on my office wall that I purchased from the St. Isaac of Syria Skete. They have many others, as well.
posted by tommasz at 1:04 PM on May 11, 2009


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