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#1 David Hawthorne

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 08:59 PM

Hello all,

I was talking about icons the other day and was discussing the meaning of the colors red and blue on the icons of the Theotokos and Christ. I had read that blue is the color for heaven/ Divinity while red was the color for humanity. An Orthodox brother disagreed and said the meaning was the opposite. When I got home I consulted my books and the internet to find that opinion was about evenly divided on this. Some sources said my way of explaining it was the traditional way while other sources said his way was the traditional way. Is one explanation incorrect or are there two schools of legitimate interpretation on this?

#2 Kusanagi

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Posted 13 October 2010 - 10:00 AM

I read that blue is the colour the Mother of God wore when she was on earth, it was a traditional colour for Jewish women i believe.
Red i think it was for the passion of Christ.

Many people interpret this differently but i dont think it is something worth debating over really.
Does Photios Kontoglou mention anything on this subject?
He has written many books on iconography and theology which is being translated into English.

#3 Michael Stickles

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 03:22 PM

I've read that blue pigments sometimes could be difficult to acquire and quite expensive. So it would not surprise me if availability sometimes drove which symbolism was used.

#4 Niko T.

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 01:49 AM

I've heard that the color blue symbolizes Earth, while Red symbolizes Heaven. In iconography, Christ's inner garment is red, and his outer is blue; this symbolizes that Christ in His Divinity put on human flesh. The Theotokos' colors are reversed; this symbolizes that she, as a human, took on God in her womb.

I don't have a source for this right now, but when I come across one, I'll make sure to post it.

#5 Paul Cowan

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 02:50 AM

This is what I have heard as well

#6 Ben Johnson

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 04:30 AM

So some say:
1. Blue = heaven
2. Red = earth

Others say:
1. Red = heaven
2. Blue = earth

Why the difference?

#7 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 01:18 PM

Different cultures, different time periods, different people; we are not an "organized" religion.

Herman the disorganized Pooh

#8 Ben Johnson

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 05:00 PM

Different cultures, different time periods, different people; we are not an "organized" religion.

Herman the disorganized Pooh

Thanx. Sometimes I forget about the "disorganized" part of us. I remember a visiting deacon once said that if people complain about "organized religion," we can tell them that we have a place just right for them. :)

#9 Tom Denich

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 04:25 PM

This is what makes sense:

Christ is divine and wears red. His blue cloak on top symbolizes the humanity put upon him.

The Virgin wears blue (humanity) and wears red on top (divinity put upon her)

#10 Donna Rail

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Posted 12 December 2010 - 06:30 PM

I have heard the same thing as said by Niko and Tom. :)

#11 Michael Stickles

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Posted 13 December 2010 - 07:56 PM

This is what makes sense:

Christ is divine and wears red. His blue cloak on top symbolizes the humanity put upon him.

The Virgin wears blue (humanity) and wears red on top (divinity put upon her)


Although I have seen the reverse of the color scheme symbolism explained as follows:

You’ll see that in icons of Mary, she is wearing a red garment on the outside and a blue tunic on the inside. The exact opposite is found in icons of Christ. Red symbolizes blood, flesh, humanity. Blue symbolizes the celestial, the divine. Hence, the way Mary’s garments are depicted symbolizes her complete humanity while, as the mother of Christ, carrying the divine within her. Jesus’ garments represent his true nature: the son of God, fully divine, while becoming incarnate as a true, flesh and blood, human body.


This explanation makes more sense to me, but it seems you could make a good case either way.

#12 Peter S.

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Posted 13 December 2010 - 09:56 PM

Thank you Michael.

I ve heard the that the white on top in the russian flag symbolizes paradise. The blue heaven. and the red at the bottom earth. But the serbian flag is different. :)

Peter
In Christ

#13 Olga

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Posted 14 December 2010 - 12:37 AM

While I acknowledge that many early icons of the Mother of God show her entirely blue garments, it should be remembered that iconography, like many aspects of Orthodox praxis, took some time to develop. For instance, the three letters of the name of God did not appear in Christ's halo from the beginning, yet the dogmatic importance of this detail, like the three stars of perpetual virginity on the garments of the Mother of God, cannot be overestimated.

The reciprocal colouring of the garments of Christ and the Mother of God (blue over red, and red over blue, respectively), is not only theologically consistent (God clothing Himself with humanity, but never losing His divinity; the created and mortal being clothed with divinity, though remaining human and mortal), but also reflects a very strong scriptural mode of expression: the paradox. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. The strength of man is the weakness of God, and the wisdom of man is the folly of God. And, we have the accounts of the old and barren conceiving - Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth, Anna.

Hymnography is also stuffed full of these contradictory dualities. Antiphon 15 from the Matins of Great Friday is a prime example: Today hangs upon the tree, He who hung the earth above the waters ... Many other hymns follow this pattern. So, it makes great sense to me that the reciprocal colours long used for the garments of Christ and the Mother of God are, for these reasons, most fitting.

#14 Angie

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Posted 06 February 2017 - 08:58 AM

Hi

 

Can anyone tell me what each colour represents in our orthodox icons?

 

Blue, Red, Green. purple, white, brown etc

 

I would like to explain this simply to children

 

Thanks


Edited by Angie, 06 February 2017 - 09:00 AM.


#15 Antonios

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Posted 06 February 2017 - 09:19 PM

Hi
 
Can anyone tell me what each colour represents in our orthodox icons?
 
Blue, Red, Green. purple, white, brown etc
 
I would like to explain this simply to children
 
Thanks


I believe red refers to humanity, blue divinity.

#16 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 07 February 2017 - 05:51 PM

I have found it very difficult to track down anything definitive and authoritative about this matter. There are articles on the internet but none of them cite sources and seem to be no more than personal opinions. The well-known book, 'The Meaning of Icons' does not deal with colour.



#17 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 07 February 2017 - 09:32 PM

My wife found something from a Russian web site that may help:

Red — the colour of Heavenly cleansing fire, the colour of life-giving warmth, and in this case, the symbol of life. The colour of blood, therefore, is also a symbol of the sacrifices and of the Passover. The colour of the robes of the Holy martyrs.

Brown — the colour of earth, means humility, poverty, renunciation of the world. In this sense, is found in icons in robes of saints and Mother of God.


Yellow — has two opposite meanings. First, when it is read as a Golden yellow — then it carries all the positive symbolism of the Golden colour. If it is a dull yellow colour, it means betrayal, ambition, greed. It is the colour of Judas Iscariot.


Green — is the colour of new growth in spring and vegetation, and therefore, means victory of life over death and Eternal Life given by the Saviour. Symbolizes Christ as Life-Giver and the Cross as the Tree of Life. Despite the positive nature of the main bright green colour, pale green can be associated with Satan and death.


Blue/Indigo — a symbol of mystery, of divine incomprehensibility, eternity, truth, revelation, wisdom. The colour of the Apostolic clothes.

 

Blue — the colour of the sky and the clothes of the Mother of God as ever-virgin, symbolizes the spiritual purity and chastity, as well as trust and fidelity in marriage.


Purple/Violet — a symbol of Royal power, of victory. The colour of the holy garments of kings and princes. In the same as is sometimes used as a symbol of God the Father.

White is a symbol of innocence of soul, purity, and Holiness; the colour of the garments of angels and the transfigured and resurrected Christ. As in iconography, and jewellery it often refers to heaven. For example, many enamel lapel crosses white background duplicates or replaces the cryptogram MLRB (the place of the frontal Rai byst), speaking of the restoration of the Saviour of the lost Paradise.


Gold — the colour of gold, the image of the uncreated Divine light is the absolute metaphor of God: "God is light and in him is no darkness at all" (1. John 1.5). Gold is a symbol of the sun and of the Royal dignity, respectively, of Christ as the Sun of Righteousness and the King of Glory. Also is a symbol of love, honest truth, incorruptibility.


Silver — carries the symbolism of white and blue. Is the symbol of purity burnt flesh, and a symbol of Evangelical eloquence. The latter is based on the words of Psalm 11.7: "the Words of the Lord are pure words, silver purified in the furnace seven times melted".


Black - is the colour of the Prince of darkness. Symbolizes sorrow, sickness, sin, and the denial and renunciation of the world (clothes of monks and priests). However, in combination with white, symbolizes humility and purity. Black coupled with blue, represents the deep mystery and green old age.


Grey — the colour of ashes, symbolizes sorrow and deadness, or humility, the death of the body and the immortality of the soul.

 

It will be noticed that the first set of colours correspond to the colours of the rainbow, symbol of God's covenant with man (see Gen. 9:12-14).

 

There is also an obvious correspondence with the colours of vestments.



#18 Olga

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Posted 07 February 2017 - 09:48 PM

Some colours have more than one meaning, such as blue and red. In icons of Christ and the Mother of God, blue represents humanity, red divinity and kingship.So Christ the King and God wears a blue cloak over a red tunic (God the Word made flesh), and His Mother wears a red cloak over a blue tunic (the humble handmaiden graced by Divinity, who became the Queen and Mother). The Mother of God also wears red or crimson shoes, a privilege of royalty.

 

In ancient times, one of the cheapest dyes was woad, one of the costliest was lapis lazuli. Both are blue dyes. This may explain why blue has both humble and heavenly meanings. Similarly, there were common and inexpensive reddish-brown dyes, while the dye known as porphyry, which came in shades of crimson to deep purple, was very expensive, because of the time and effort involved in producing it. Only royalty and the very wealthy could afford it.

 

Green generally represents the Holy Spirit and life, gold is of heaven and spiritual illumination.



#19 Angie

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Posted 08 February 2017 - 02:27 AM

Thank you everybody.  Great info!



#20 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 08 February 2017 - 08:45 AM

A note about blue: azure blue is the colour of the Uncreated Light as seen by the saints and others.






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