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Saint Luke's first icon of the Mother of God


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#1 Angie

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 10:05 AM

Can someone tell me which icon did Saint Luke draw and which website could I find this icon?

Thanks
Angela

#2 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 01:29 PM

Can someone tell me which icon did Saint Luke draw and which website could I find this icon?

Thanks
Angela


The icon which St Luke drew of the Mother of God is called the Hodigitria. You can read about this icon here.

In a short amount of time I wasn't able to find online a very good example of this famous icon.

Someone else? Olga?

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#3 Paul Cowan

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 02:15 AM

Here is an image of the Hodigitiria.

Here is one on the Black Madonna.

He was reported to have written some 70 different icons. We are going to have to see what Olga and Mike are able to come up with.

Paul

#4 Olga

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 03:51 AM

It is part of Church Tradition that Evangelist Luke painted the first icon, that of the Mother of God, during her lifetime. It is commonly accepted that the composition of this icon was of the Odighitria (Directress, She who shows the way) type. This type shows the Mother of God sitting upright, looking at the viewer of the icon, or sometimes towards her Son. With one hand, she points towards the Christ-child sitting on her knee or lap, presenting Him as the source and means of salvation.

St Luke is also often credited with painting two other compositional types: the Eleousa (Merciful, Of Tenderness, Umilenie, Glykofiloussa), which show the Virgin embracing her Child, and the Child likewise embracing or caressing His mother, of which, again, there are many, many variants; and the Of the Sign (Oranta, Znamennie, Platytera), where the Virgin is in half- or full stature, her arms raised in prayer, and the Child in a round mandorla (representing Divine Glory) over her body, symbolising His Incarnation.

(Even taking into account the almost complete destruction of early icons during the iconoclastic periods of the eighth and ninth centuries, there still remain mosaic and other icons from the pre-iconoclastic period. The oldest forms are undoubtedly the Odighitria and the Of the Sign. The earliest known Eleousa icon was the Mother of God of Vladimir (Vladimirskaya), painted in 1132 in Constantinople, commissioned for the founding of the church of the Mother of God in Kiev. This may contradict the traditional account of St Luke painting the first Eleousa, but we have no way of confirming or denying that he did, due to the lack of surviving icons of the early years of the Christian period.)

To return to the question of locating the Odighitria painted by St Luke: The question should be “which one?”. This iconographic type has a multitude of variations, such as whether the Child is on the right or left of the icon, the Child looking at the viewer, or towards His mother, or His sitting posture. It is reasonable to say that the more formal the arrangement of the two figures, the more likely this was an older composition. However, even in this case, the variations are numerous. To attempt to pin down which was St Luke’s original version would be impossible, due to the passage of time, and the almost complete loss of pre-9th C icons, be it by iconoclastic destruction, or simply through the ravages of time.

It is also worth considering that, even if we were able to identify which of the multitude of Odighitrias was the “original” (or a faithful copy of it, as it is hardly likely the one St Luke would have painted would have survived), does it really matter? Would this icon, if it existed, be any more worthy than any other canonical icon of the Mother of God? True, there are any number of famous and undeniably miraculous icons of the Mother of God, such as Portaitissa, Kursk-Root, Kazanskaya, Pantanassa, to name but a tiny number, but it must not be forgotten that any canonical icon, whether formally recognised as miracle-working or not, is still representing the prototype, in this case, of the Mother of God; the grace of God is manifest through the icon, irrespective of who painted it.

This brings us back to the great difference between a painter of religious subjects and an iconographer: The conventional artist paints according to his talent and creativity, and is entitled to sign his work. The iconographer is an instrument of the Church, inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit to produce works which are in complete harmony with what the Church teaches and espouses. Therefore, an iconographer is not entitled to sign his name to his work, as it does not “belong” to him as such. The Vladimirskaya icon is rightly of the most profound theological, historical and devotional significance. Though it is the work of what must surely have been one of Constantinople's finest iconographers, his name is unknown to us. Would, or should, our knowing his name affect our estimation and veneration of this icon?

#5 Angie

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 08:48 AM

Many thanks all!

+Angela

#6 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 01:22 PM

Olga wrote:

This brings us back to the great difference between a painter of religious subjects and an iconographer: The conventional artist paints according to his talent and creativity, and is entitled to sign his work. The iconographer is an instrument of the Church, inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit to produce works which are in complete harmony with what the Church teaches and espouses. Therefore, an iconographer is not entitled to sign his name to his work, as it does not “belong” to him as such. The Vladimirskaya icon is rightly of the most profound theological, historical and devotional significance. Though it is the work of what must surely have been one of Constantinople's finest iconographers, his name is unknown to us. Would, or should, our knowing his name affect our estimation and veneration of this icon?


I have just begun reading a book called Sailing from Byzantium- How a Lost Empire Shaped the World by Colin Wells. The descriptions of Orthodoxy (obviously a lot of the book) are weak and in places completely wrong. But the main theme of the book, which is how Byzantine culture affected the West, Islam and Russia, is actually very interesting with a lot of facts I had not known about.

For example in the section on how Byzantium affected the west - and that is why I brought this up in connection with Olga's post- the author refers to a number of Greeks who ended up emigrating to the west. Most went to Italy where their knowledge of Greek philosophy ended up having a profound influence on the Renaissance. For a while Greek teachers in Italy were all the rage for Italian humanists (to see about this you can go to this Wiki page).

In any case the point is that for those who emigrated this became really a story of personalities. There was something in western culture at the time, although the book doesn't go too far into this, which attracted quite a few educated Byzantines; interestingly many of these came from that part of the Church world which had not adopted hesychastic spirituality. A number of these were purposefully anti-hesychast (Barlaam was one- he emigrated to the west where he ended up as a good friend of Petrarch and other Renaissance personalities). In the western culture of the time they found a dynamic culture in terms of learning & humanist values. But much of this centered on the new place which this culture gave to the personality.

The main point here was that for the first time the person was to place themselves before the world as if on a stage. To act as an individual became a value in itself. This individual action became a method of self-creation. It's no wonder then that in this world leaving one's personal mark and signature were seen as positive. Orthodox ascetic spirituality, especially as presented by the hesychasts, must have seemed repugnant from the humanist persepctive; something which to them denied what a human being is.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#7 Niko T.

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 11:42 PM

Olga's statement is totally true: "but it must not be forgotten that any canonical icon, whether formally recognised as miracle-working or not, is still representing the prototype, in this case, of the Mother of God; the grace of God is manifest through the icon, irrespective of who painted it."

If however, anyone is planning on traveling through Greece or Cyprus, they are able to venerate the following three icons which many hold (at least in the greek tradition) to be among those painted by St. Luke. Regardless of whether he actually was the iconographer or not, they are among the most celebrated and wonderworking icons in Greece, so I thought to include them here for reference (though there are many others that could be discussed too):

-Panagia Soumela (Northern Greece) (http://www.stgeorgeg...ia Soumela.html)

-Panagia Megalospileiotissa (Peloponnese) (http://www.johnsanid...pelaion-in.html)

-Panagia Kykkotissa (Cyprus) (http://www.chrissihart.com/node/389)

#8 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 05 February 2010 - 12:18 AM

With regard to the qualities of the Vladimirskaya icon which Olga describes, no reproduction can prepare one for the impact made by beholding the original. It really is awe-inspiring. It used to be in the State Tretyakov Gallery but not long ago was moved to the church of St Nicholas just round the corner.

#9 Jason H.

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 10:30 AM

Can someone provide a new link that talks about St. Luke painting the first Icon of the Theotokos. The link in post 2 is not longer working.

#10 Michael Stickles

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 08:33 PM

Can someone provide a new link that talks about St. Luke painting the first Icon of the Theotokos. The link in post 2 is not longer working.


It looks like that whole domain is down. I see two options. First, you could look at the top item from this Google search (unless their listings change, it should be the same page) and click on "Cached" to get Google's stored version. Second, you could try this page which has what appears to be a similar story (I can't be sure because my firewall here blocks Google's cached pages, so I can't check the original).

#11 Carolyn C.

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Posted 22 October 2014 - 04:11 AM

The apse of our church has a beautiful icon of the Theotokos Platytera that was written by Constantine Youssis.  It is so lovely.  Is there any place that I can buy a copy of an icon of the Platytera by Constantine Youssis?    There is also a beautiful icon of St. Pelagia of Antioch (the virgin martyr, not the penitent) on the Antiochian website.  Is there any place that I could buy a copy of this icon?



#12 Kosta

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Posted 23 October 2014 - 10:21 AM

Can someone tell me which icon did Saint Luke draw and which website could I find this icon?

Thanks
Angela

 

 

The most famous St. Luke icon of the Hodegetria was held in the Hodegon Monastery in Constantinople. The monastery has long been destroyed. It is said that the last emperor went into battle with it, 1453 is the last we hear of it:

 

 History of Hodegon Monastery

 

 

The Panagia Soumela is said to be one of the original icons painted by St. Luke:

 

Panagia-Soumela-St_Luke.jpg

 

Fascinating account on how the icon and other relics were retrieved from the original monastery in Turkey 

Panagia Soumela - OrthodoxWiki



#13 Angie

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Posted 24 October 2014 - 12:47 AM

Wow, thank you



#14 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 October 2014 - 04:42 PM

I would just like to mention that the materials St Luke would have used to paint (not 'write') icons would have been the same as have been used for very many centuries and which continue in use today, namely egg tempera on a wooden panel prepared with gesso. Panel paintings were considered the highest form of artistic expression in the Roman world of the first century AD, and Pliny the Elder regretted (as indeed did the architect Vitruvius) that panel paintings were being overtaken in popularity by wall paintings in fresco. We have a false impression of 1st century Roman painting because wall paintings survive (as at Pompeii) but there are no surviving panel paintings before the Severan Tondo in Berlin, which depicts the Emperor Septimius Severus and his family painted in about 200 AD.



#15 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 24 October 2014 - 10:08 PM

If my memory serves me correctly Andreas wax and mastic was often used. I'm not 100% sure, but I think that may pertain to the icon that is being referenced.

 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin



#16 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 October 2014 - 10:39 PM

The encaustic technique was indeed used but it was a less refined method which did not give the image the quality that only tempera can.. We are used to images of the Fayum burial portraits which were produced on a commercial scale in encaustic and sometimes a mixture of encaustic and tempera, and they are indeed very realistic and striking though of varying artistic quality, but they are seen by eyes used to Impressionism and modern art techniques. It is true that the celebrated early icons of Christ and St Peter at Sinai are in encaustic but the superior quality of tempera led to this technique replacing encaustic in the Byzantine period.



#17 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 24 October 2014 - 11:07 PM

Speaking of modern techiques, do you think acrylic paint is inferior to egg tempera?

 

Hmm, it is interesting to note that wax and mastic had medical applications.

 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin



#18 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 October 2014 - 11:29 PM

I have thought about acrylic as a medium for icon painting. It is said that the application of olipha, an oil preparation from varying ingredients, to the finished icon blends with the egg tempera to give a depth and luminosity to the colours. Having seen many original egg tempera icons, I am not sure this has all that is claimed for it. Opinions may vary as to whether acrylic is a suitable medium for icon painting but given the wide variety of ways of treating the surface of an acrylic painting (there is a range of varnishes), I see no objection to it. Further, a support made from MDF may be more stable and durable than the traditional wooden support. The icons at this site  http://www.agiograph...t_Spiridon.html are all painted in acrylic on MDF.



#19 Angie

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Posted 25 October 2014 - 04:45 AM

Thankyou both for this extra information.  I am planning on studying iconography with the children and this is great info.

 

Not sure if anyone does iconography on this site, but would be a great addition to this forum.  Would be nice to see other peoples work.



#20 Olga

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Posted 25 October 2014 - 05:21 AM

I have thought about acrylic as a medium for icon painting. It is said that the application of olipha, an oil preparation from varying ingredients, to the finished icon blends with the egg tempera to give a depth and luminosity to the colours. Having seen many original egg tempera icons, I am not sure this has all that is claimed for it. Opinions may vary as to whether acrylic is a suitable medium for icon painting but given the wide variety of ways of treating the surface of an acrylic painting (there is a range of varnishes), I see no objection to it. Further, a support made from MDF may be more stable and durable than the traditional wooden support. The icons at this site  http://www.agiograph...t_Spiridon.html are all painted in acrylic on MDF.

 

Varnishing always brings out added depth and richness in whatever lies beneath it, be it a painted image, or the grain of timber. The higher the gloss level, the richer and deeper will be the effect.

 

While egg tempera is a kind of gold standard as an iconographic medium, it is in many situations impractical for use. Moreover, the use of tempera does not confer any additional "holiness" on the work, as some purists mistakenly insist (the same sorts who insist icons are written, not painted ;) ). It is beyond question that icons of great subtlety and spiritual power, whether panel icons or murals, can be produced by a suitably skilled iconographer using acrylics.






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