Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

“Problematic” icons


  • Please log in to reply
193 replies to this topic

#21 Olga

Olga

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 2,821 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 12 November 2010 - 03:40 AM

What canons does the "Ark of Salvation" icon actually violate though? I read the various reasons for considering this icon problematic, but I didn't see any clear strictures against this sort of thing in the Church's tradition. I saw an icon of the Council of Chalcedon that showed Dioscorus and Eutyches standing in the middle with demons on their shoulders- wouldn't that also be pushing an "ecclesiopolitical" agenda?


What many folks, particularly those who have come from western Christian traditions, find frustrating is the seeming lack of codification for many things in Orthodoxy, particularly what can and cannot/should not be depicted in icons. Orthodox holy tradition is as much absorbed from all its facets, as anything else. Iconography in particular is one area where there are exceedingly few "formal"canons - and those which are concerned with what should not be depicted are those which forbid the painting of God the Father as an old man, and symbolic or metaphysical representations of Christ. There are no written canons which, for instance, forbid St Joseph the Betrothed holding the infant Christ, or denounce the painting of the polemical "ark of salvation" image. Arriving at an understanding as to which imagery is proper and which is not takes many years, and much effort.

Regarding the icons of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, it is indeed proper to show the anathematisation of Dioscorus and Eutyches, though I feel the presence of the little demons on their shoulders in some icons of this subject to be rather unnecessary.

From the "Icons of the Ecumenical Councils" thread:

The two figures in the foreground with little black demons on their shoulders are Eutyches and Dioscorus, who were condemned at this council; Eutyches for his heretical stance on the nature(s) of Christ, and Dioscorus for his presiding over the non-canonical second council at Ephesus (which later became known as the "Robber Council"), and other serious infractions.

It is interesting to note that Dioscorus's clothing resembles bishop's vestments (on the death of St Cyril of Alexandria, Dioscorus succeeded him as Patriarch). A closer look shows that his omophorion (the strip of vestment draped over his shoulders and over his left arm) is plain, with no crosses on it, unlike those of the seated hierarchs. Likewise, Dioscorus's blue phelonion and stole (epitracheilion) are also devoid of the usual crosses and other motifs normally on these vestments. Eutyches, a priest and abbot, likewise, wears a plain stole.

This portrayal vividly illustrates the stripping of authority, the repudiation and the excommunication of Dioscorus and Eutyches, therefore, the little black demons could be regarded as an unnecessary embellishment. (But that's me being picky ...)

http://www.monachos....enical-councils

The icon of the Council of Chalcedon, therefore, is proclaiming dogmatic truth as well as documenting a crucial event in church history. The "ark of salvation" image, by perverting an accepted didactic motif, does neither.



#22 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 12 November 2010 - 03:10 PM

What the discussions here have helped me to see is that for us icons are symbolic depictions based on a particular theological understanding of Christ, the Mother of God and the saints. In other words icons are not just general depictions of Christ or of His Mother or of the saints; or of an episode of the divine dispensation (ie the creation, the parable of the good samaritan, etc). Rather icons are depicted with specific theological intention; and it is this which governs the way in which they are depicted. This is what makes them icons.

I say this partly because I have just finished reading an amazing book called The Stripping of the Altars. This book gives a vivid description of the purposeful destruction of traditional Christianity in England which occurred during the 16thc. For myself I had no idea of the amount of painted religious depictions which existed in churches at that time. Somehow I expected that this would be in a style like Dutch or Italian naturalistic paintings. But instead most of what existed through the 15th - 16thc was in a style that was not at all naturalistic. Indeed much of it - what little still exists after all of the 'image smashing' that destroyed much of the look and interior disposition of the churches in England from this time on- is of striking other worldly beauty. However it was not for the most part iconography as we understand this.

The useful point here I think is that for us iconography is not just religious or spiritual depiction. Rather, iconography is based on a theological depiction which the canonical rule points to. Obviously, the 7th Ec Council, along with the controversy and theological issues surrounding this as it developed in the east, has had a profound influence on our sense of what iconography is. But what this understanding has done for us I think is to provide us, not with a rule that no other representational depictions are possible (as found for example in the west or among the Copts & Ethiopians), but that iconography as depicted in the church building needs to follow a particular canonical understanding.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#23 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 12 November 2010 - 03:28 PM

Here are some examples of English religious depictions as were found in the 16thc. These were mounted on screens before the altar area of the church.Attached File  st cecilia.jpg   257.07K   271 downloads

Attached Files



#24 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 12 November 2010 - 03:37 PM

Sorry that these uploaded like this.

St Dorothy is at the top left. St Michael top right. St Cecilia at the bottom.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#25 Olga

Olga

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 2,821 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 18 November 2010 - 07:30 AM

All being well, this is the first post of a series on uncanonical or doubtful images which have appeared in the Orthodox world over the years.

The images I am posting are all produced by iconographers who are Orthodox. I do not, in any way, wish to judge their faith or sincerity, and, for this reason, I will not mention their names, where the names are known. I post these images and my accompanying comments, not to draw attention to myself, but to alert folks to some pitfalls which can befall those who paint icons.

Honest mistakes?

Animals as evangelists
30395.jpeg

Imagery from the Book of Revelation of four mystical creatures (an angel, an ox, a lion, an eagle) in the presence of the throne of God were interpreted by the Fathers as mystically representing the four Evangelists: in order, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The image here, from mural iconography in a church, shows two of these creatures, with inscriptions Mark and Luke. Let us look at Canon 82 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council:

In certain reproductions of venerable images, the Forerunner is pictured pointing to the lamb with his finger. This representation was adopted as a symbol of grace. It was a hidden figure of that true Lamb who is Christ our God, shown to us according to the Law. Having thus welcomed these ancient figures and shadows as symbols of the truth transmitted to the Church, we prefer today grace and truth themselves, as a fulfilment of the Law. Therefore, in order to expose to the sight of all, at least with the help of painting, that which is perfect, we decree that henceforth Christ our God be represented in His human form, and not in the form of the ancient lamb. We understand this to be the elevation of the humility of God the Word, and we are led to remembering His life in the flesh, His passion, His saving death and, thus, deliverance which took place for the world.

We also have, from his authoritative treatise defending iconography, St John of Damascus’ statement of:

Of old, God the incorporeal and uncircumscribed was not depicted at all. But now that God has appeared in the flesh and lived among men, I make an image of the God who can be seen. I do not worship matter, but I worship the Creator of matter, who for my sake became material, and deigned to dwell in matter, who, through matter, effected my salvation. I will not cease from venerating the matter through which my salvation has been effected.

Iconography is concerned with the fullness of divine revelation: in essence, the Word made flesh. Where only a prefigurative or mystical image has been revealed, then that image may be permitted in an icon. Where the fullness has been revealed (most notably in the incarnation of Christ), then only the fullness of that image may be properly depicted. As, according to Canon 82, it is not considered proper to represent Christ in His prefigured forms (as a lamb, as a youthful winged angel, etc), so also is it wrong to portray the mystical creatures in the book of Revelation with the inscriptions of the names of the Evangelists. The Evangelists were human beings, and not the abovementioned creatures in essence or nature. Was St Mark an ox? Or St Luke a lion? Of course not. We should not confuse symbolic forms with reality. Therefore, while it is permissible to show these mystical creatures around the throne of God in icons of Christ in Majesty, as per the Book of Revelation, the inscriptions of the names of the Evangelist-saints should not be there.

Iconographer-saints


%D0%90%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%BF%D0%B8%D0%B9+%D0

It is sufficient that iconographer-saints are portrayed holding an icon with which they are associated. The presence of holy objects such as the Gospel or a cross in icons is quite proper, as are other items which represent spiritual qualities, such as medicinal kits, weapons, or crowns, where such items are also relevant to a saint’s earthly life.

Some food for thought:

In Western religious art, saints are frequently portrayed holding various items relating to their earthly occupation, or martyrdom. In Orthodox iconography, objects carried by the saints are restricted to those which are holy, such as the Cross, the Gospel, a scroll representing Holy Wisdom, or a model of a church (for apostles, equals-to-the-apostles and enlightener-saints). There are other objects which are iconographically acceptable, such as the kit of the physicians, the weapons of the warrior-saints, and the vials of perfumes and oils carried by the Myrrh-bearers Joanna, Salome, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James. Such objects have a spiritual meaning as well as being a reference to the saint’s earthly life.

Physician saints are shown holding their medicament box and spoon, referring not only to their earthly deeds of healing the physically ill, but symbolic also of spiritual healing. Warrior-saints, such as Great-martyrs George and Demetrius, St Menas of Egypt, or St Alexander Nevsky, are shown in military dress, and bearing weapons. The presence of weapons is not simply a reference to the saint’s earthly station, but a symbol of the struggle against sin and evil. The Epistle which is generally read on the feast day of a warrior-saint is Eph. 6:10-17:

In conclusion, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the complete armour that God supplies, so that you will be able to stand against the devil’s intrigues. For our struggle is not against flesh-and-blood opponents, but against the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly spheres. Therefore, take up the whole armour of God so that you may be able to stand when you have done all the fighting. So stand your ground, girded with the belt of truth, wearing the breastplate of righteousness on your body, with the readiness of the Gospel of peace bound on your feet; above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.



Saints of noble birth are shown dressed accordingly, though they should not be shown holding articles such as orbs and sceptres which denote earthly power. Crowns and swords (for kings and princes), however, are permissible, as they represent triumph over evil, particularly in the case of martyrs. There are constant liturgical references to such saints being bestowed with “the crown of martyrdom”, the reward for “fighting the good fight”.

The presence of artists’ paint-pots and brushes for iconographer-saints is not in these categories, and is therefore superfluous. It is more proper to show iconographer-saints holding an icon through which they are associated (such as St Andrei of Radonezh (Andrei Rublyev) with an icon of the Holy Trinity). In such icons, the icon held by the saint is placed in a central, frontal position, drawing the viewer towards it.


04.jpg

Children of Abraham


children%20of%20abraham%20with%20XC%20mo

In the parable of Lazarus the beggar and the rich man, mention is made of the soul of Lazarus being in the bosom of Abraham. This imagery features in the hymnography of the Church, in its funeral and memorial services, as a place where the souls of the righteous dwell. What struck me about this image is the presence of Christ Emmanuel in the bosom of Abraham. It would make more sense to show Christ bearing the soul of Abraham in His bosom, confirming Abraham’s righteousness before God.

Christ, Image of the Father

54748.jpeg


This line drawing is another example of an attempt to portray complex theological concepts in pictorial form. Such an approach has led to images such as the Balkan trinity I posted earlier, and a number of complex, didactic images which arose in the Orthodox world between the 14th and 17th centuries, but which are, essentially, speculative and imaginative.


Edited by Olga, 23 October 2015 - 09:22 AM.
Restored working links to graphics


#26 Olga

Olga

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 2,821 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 18 November 2010 - 07:55 AM

Honest Mistakes? part 2

Wayward trinities and duumvirates

Here is a variant of the Balkan trinity I posted earlier, which is a little easier to look at, compared to the vertigo-inducing one:
 
smes03.jpg
 
And, an image which is a duumvirate, not a trinity, as there is no presence of the second Person in any form. I suspect this image was produced to show the generation of the Holy Spirit from God the Father alone, as a counter to the western filioque. However honourable in its intent, it fails canonically, in its portrayal of God the Father as a bearded old man, and in depicting the Holy Spirit as a dove. The dove representing the Holy Spirit should only be used in icons of the Baptism of Christ, as it was at this event that the Spirit was revealed “in the form of a dove”. In other theophanic icons, the Holy Spirit is shown in the form revealed at the time. So, at Pentecost, tongues of fire should be seen, not doves. I might add that many icons of the Annunciation show a ray of divine light directed to the Mother of God, within which is a medallion motif of a dove, symbolic of the Spirit of God overshadowing her and allowing her to conceive. The scriptural and hymnographic tradition makes no mention of what visible form the Holy Spirit took at that time. So, if a ray of divinity is to be painted to represent the coming of the Spirit over the Virgin, there should be no dove motif.
 
God19thC.jpg

Angel of the Sign

95957890_uu.jpg

The motif of Christ Emmanuel over the body of this guardian angel is taken from the imagery of icons of the Mother of God of the Sign, which express the prophecy of Isaiah on the Incarnation. Christ Emmanuel over her body represents her conceiving and bearing the Son of God in her womb, so the presence of a motif of Emmanuel over the body of the angel is quite problematic. At the very least, angels are bodiless, and neither male nor female in the human sense.


Edited by Olga, 23 October 2015 - 10:12 AM.
Restored working links to graphics


#27 Tom Denich

Tom Denich

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 25 posts

Posted 18 November 2010 - 12:46 PM

Wow...great posts. If you were my neighbor, we would never get any work done at all! I need you to visit me in the studio to slap me on the back of the head once in a while.

#28 Olga

Olga

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 2,821 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 19 November 2010 - 03:00 AM

Imports from other traditions

The Mother of God as a child


61979.jpeg

The title of this image is Mother of God at three years of age. This image is supposedly taken from hymnography from the feast of the Entry into the Temple of the Mother of God. There are many references there of the three-year-old child of Joachim and Anna entering the Temple, including the Holy of Holies, to be prepared for the awesome and incomprehensible task of conceiving and bearing the Son of God.

However, the following should be considered:

The young Virgin is consistently shown in her icons, including in icons of the Entry into the Temple, as a miniature adult, in a blue tunic covered by a red maphorion (cloak) bearing the three stars of perpetual virginity. There are many icons of her nativity which show her, newborn, in her crib, not as a babe in swaddling-clothes, which is, in itself, quite proper, but dressed in a maphorion, and bearing the three stars of perpetual virginity. This is quite consistent with the iconographic and hymnographic principle where linear time is not necessarily followed; the liturgical “today”, as it were, as well as being consistent with the hymnography and dogma of the Church. By contrast, the portrayal of a bare-headed, sweet little girl in a blue tunic holding lilies strikes me as an image not from Orthodox sources, but a saccharine, sentimental image from elsewhere, an attempt to make the Virgin “easier to relate to”. This sentimentalising and humanising tendency is frequently seen in western religious art. The intention is honourable, but it can result in an unfortunate “dumbing down” of the holy and sacred. Iconography concerns itself with what has been revealed, and with helping us conform ourselves to the will of God, not with pious sentiment or "what feels right".

Holy Family


17_big.jpg

The Iconography of St Joseph the Betrothed thread has a few things to say about this kind of portrayal:


http://www.monachos....-the-betrothed/


I have also come across this image:

TheHolyFamily_b.jpg

This is an adaptation of the Holy Trinity icon derived from the Hospitality of Abraham, but the three angels are replaced by the Mother of God, St Joseph the Betrothed, and the young Christ. The “Holy Family” idea is foreign enough to Orthodox tradition, but its intrusion into the well-established iconography of the Holy Trinity is extremely problematic. It presents a very confused conflation of the Holy Trinity and the three persons depicted here.


Edited by Olga, 16 March 2016 - 06:26 AM.
Restored working links to graphics


#29 Paul Cowan

Paul Cowan

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,064 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 20 November 2010 - 04:43 AM

Take a look at St. Barlaam's hand.

Commemorated on November 19

The Holy Martyr Barlaam lived in Antioch of Syria. During Diocletian's persecution against Christians, the aged St Barlaam was arrested and brought to trial, where he confessed himself a Christian.

The judge, wanting to compel the saint to renounce Christ, ordered that St Barlaam be brought to the pagan altar. His right hand was placed over it, and a red-hot censer burning with incense was put into his hand. The torturer thought that a physically weak old man could not endure the pain and would drop it on the altar. In this way he would involuntarily be offering sacrifice to the idol. However, the saint held on to the censer until his hand fell off. After this, the holy Martyr Barlaam surrendered his soul to the Lord.

#30 Guillermo M.L.

Guillermo M.L.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 126 posts

Posted 20 November 2010 - 05:55 AM

Olga, everything you posted is very interesting. However, I have some questions regarding your posts:

However honourable in its intent, it fails canonically, in its portrayal of God the Father as a bearded old man


Why it is said that it fails canonically? How should the Father be portrayed in icons?

The “Holy Family” idea is foreign enough to Orthodox tradition


Why is this so? Isn't the "Holy Family" idea good enough for Orthodoxy? Doesn't it present a family model for all Christian families to follow?

Thanks again for your input =)

#31 Olga

Olga

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 2,821 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 20 November 2010 - 06:08 AM

Why it is said that it fails canonically? How should the Father be portrayed in icons?



God the Father is infinite, unknowable, incomprehensible, therefore He cannot be depicted in icons, except in the symbolic form in icons of the Hospitality of Abraham, and in the Holy Trinity icon derived from it. He should certainly never be shown as a bearded old man, as He has never been revealed as such. There are a number of threads dealing with this topic on this forum.

Why is this so? Isn't the "Holy Family" idea good enough for Orthodoxy? Doesn't it present a family model for all Christian families to follow?



You'll find answers in the Iconography of St Joseph the Betrothed thread, which contains a thorough analysis of the place of St Joseph in Orthodox veneration, and the proper forms he is to be portrayed in icons:

http://www.monachos....-the-betrothed/

Edited by Olga, 23 October 2015 - 10:47 AM.
Restored broken link


#32 Olga

Olga

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 2,821 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 20 November 2010 - 06:27 AM

Phyletism rules, OK

Ethnic Christ

27411.jpeg

The colours in Christ’s halo are those of the national flag of Russia, and of Serbia. Coincidence? The grumpy old woman in me is yet to be convinced. There is neither Jew nor Greek, nor slave or freeman, nor male or female ….

Tsar Ivan IV

Local veneration of persons who are regarded as saints has long been Orthodox practice, with many of these people later being officially glorified as saints by Church authorities. St Nicholas of Myra, and many of the early Church Fathers and martyrs were also thus, and rightly, recognised for their sanctity by popular acclaim alone. In later centuries, the Church developed a means of formal examination and glorification of people who might be regarded as saints.

A good and recent example of this is the quick acceptance and veneration as a saint by people all over the world of Archbishop John (Maximovitch), even long before his death in 1966. He was officially glorified as St John of Shanghai and San Francisco by ROCOR in 1993, and, more recently, added to the calendar of saints for commemoration in various other jurisdictions.

Tsar Ivan Grozny (the Dread), has been adopted at various times by certain interest groups as a saint. This painting of him, dating from the 1880s, bearing a halo, is in the Granovita Palace of the Moscow Kremlin, with the inscription: “Right-believing and Christ-loving, anointed by God, Great Majesty, Tsar and Great-prince Ioann Vasiliyevitch of all Great Russia, Majesty of Majesties, and autocrat.”


a10b1152be02.jpg

In the last twenty years, Russian ultranationalists have adopted Ivan IV as one of their great heroes, extolling the expansion of the Russian empire during his reign, his apparent strong Orthodox faith, and greatly downplaying his legacy of terror, oppression, and cruelty. Hieromartyr Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow, at first Ivan’s confessor and spiritual guide, was persecuted, imprisoned, and eventually executed under Ivan’s orders, for his opposition to the tsar’s frequent outbursts of savagery (both personal, and through the oprichniki – a kind of secret police force) against those whom he deemed as enemies.

A few years ago, a petition calling for his glorification as a saint was presented to the Patriarch of Moscow. Patriarch Alexei’s wise response: It is impossible to glorify both the victim and the perpetrator of murder. If Ivan were to be canonised, then it would be necessary to “uncanonise” Philip. Moreover, in the hymnography of vespers and matins for January 9, the feast-day of St Philip, Ivan is referred to as “a new Herod” and “a new Pharaoh” – hardly the stuff of sainthood. Yet, this “icon” of the “Right-believing Tsar”, flanked by the great monastic saints Sergius of Radonezh and Joseph of Volotsk, was painted in about 2008. At the lower border are two scripture passages, from the Gospels of John and Luke, respectively. At present, the resolution has made it difficult for me to decipher what is written.

006.jpg

The supporters of Ivan’s canonisation claim this painting is myrrh-streaming.


Edited by Olga, 23 October 2015 - 11:50 AM.
Restored working links to graphics


#33 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 20 November 2010 - 02:54 PM

Olga- the first inscription is from John 2: 15: " and He made a whip of chords and drove them all out of the Temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changer's money and overturned the tables.
The second is from Matthew 21:13: "and He said to them: 'It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves'".

I don't why the second inscription (the last word in the sentence) seems to read 'from Luke'.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#34 Paul Cowan

Paul Cowan

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,064 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 20 November 2010 - 06:43 PM

Olga,

I agree about your post #32. I would be distressed in the extreme to see an American flag in Christ's halo. Especially since the media and politicians would have you believe we don't anymore.

Paul

#35 Olga

Olga

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 2,821 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 21 November 2010 - 05:04 AM

Olga- the first inscription is from John 2: 15: " and He made a whip of chords and drove them all out of the Temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changer's money and overturned the tables.
The second is from Matthew 21:13: "and He said to them: 'It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves'".


Thank you, Father, for this. The significance of these particular passages to the campaign for Ivan's glorification have got me stumped. Though I know that an akathist has been written for him, and, if I'm not mistaken, a Vigil service (or, at least, a canon). Perhaps the answer lies there, not that I'm in any great hurry to find out ....

#36 Olga

Olga

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 2,821 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 21 November 2010 - 05:33 AM

Phyletism rules, OK (part 2)

Gilding the lily

Tsar Nicholas II and his family were glorified as saints and passion-bearers some years ago. Unfortunately, their icons have been hijacked by the nationalist/monarchist lobby in certain portrayals:


skLzl3mk1Kk.jpg

Though his death was by shooting, St Nicholas is here rather luridly shown beheaded, after the manner of St John the Baptist. The inscription in the red border of his halo reads “Holy Tsar-redeemer Nicholas”; the inscription above this within the gold background reads "sacrifice from the heart". Is this really necessary? I think not. Do not the terms Passionbearer and Martyr express enough?

There is also a panel showing Rasputin as a “new martyr”. Gregory Efimovitch is not a proclaimed saint, nor is he ever likely to be proclaimed one. As with those pushing for the glorification of Ivan IV, all attempts to date to have Rasputin considered for sainthood have ended in failure. Simply painting “icons” of people, and writing hymnography for them does not guarantee such people will be proclaimed saints. Akathists, troparia and kontakia have been composed for both Rasputin and Ivan IV. I doubt very much they’ll ever become part of any official menaion or prayer book.

Every tsar is sacred

1272656990_vse_pomazaniki_-12bb.polnoyek

It is true this image is not painted, but a digital pastiche of portraits and an icon or two, with digitally-generated inscriptions and haloes. However, I have included it in this series, as fully-painted versions do exist. The source of this image is the same as that of the above Imperial Family ensemble, which, by comparison, is mild in its deviation from canonical iconography. Every Russian Tsar/Tsarina is a saint, simply because they were emperors and empresses? It would be difficult to find an image more strident in its ethnophyletism and ultramonarchism. The appropriation of the Derzhavnaya icon of the Mother of God to give credibility to these stances borders on blasphemy.


Edited by Olga, 24 October 2015 - 02:16 AM.
restored broken links


#37 Olga

Olga

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 2,821 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 21 November 2010 - 06:14 AM

Sancta Baby (apologies to Eartha Kitt)

Iconography is, by definition, other-worldly and dispassionate. The manner of painting an icon should draw us closer to God, and elicit a prayerful disposition. Emotionalism and sensuality should be absent. This is not to say that an icon cannot be beautiful – far from it! But great care must be taken to maintain the delicate balance between beauty, dignity, stillness, and dispassion.

iYiuyqFPzfU.jpg


The painter of this version of Martyr Paraskeva, in attempting to show the saint as a woman blessed with beauty, has, unfortunately, strayed well over the line, not least because of the naturalistic artistic style used. The good saint isn’t simply beautiful, she’s, umm, smouldering. If I, a woman, can see this, it’s not hard to imagine what male viewers of this painting might think. Close your eyes before praying before this one, lads ….

Compare the above with this icon of New-martyr Elizabeth the Grand Duchess:

159476835_87e5f98e63.jpg


St Elizabeth was an undeniably beautiful woman, and there are many portraits and photographs of her which attest to this. The icon below indeed shows her as physically beautiful, but her beauty is tempered and transformed by her holiness into something greater; the look in her eyes poignant, strong, yet compassionate; her gestures and demeanour speak of stillness and humility. All credit to the iconographer who painted this icon – of the dozens of icons I’ve seen of St Elizabeth, I regard this one as the finest.

Where is the love?

The perpetrators of the “ark of salvation” image are not alone in their subversion of iconography to promote their particular causes. There are at least two other “flavours” of polemicists who think of themselves as guardians of “true” Orthodoxy: the “anti-papists” and the “anti-sergianists”. The latter represent those who fought against, and have not accepted, the 2007 reconciliation of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad with the Moscow Patriarchate. The virulence of their extremism (I would go as far as to call it hatred) is clearly expressed in the following image:

marko.jpg

St Mark of Ephesus, who, famously refused to abide by the Union of Florence, is standing on a naked man who is holding a pair of keys, and a sword which has been run through a Gospel book; his other hand is clutching his head in despair. For good measure, this unfortunate fellow bears the label “Roman Pope”, and is about to be sent into the abyss and fires of hell for his wicked heresies. Oh dear.

The other image is New-martyr Joseph of Petrograd trampling on Patriarch Sergius, dressed as a Soviet komissar under his mantle. It is hardly a model of dispassion and restraint:

gAsIAbdo2n4.jpg



#38 Olga

Olga

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 2,821 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 21 November 2010 - 06:21 AM

Magical Mystery Tour

A certain iconographer, born in the former Soviet Union, now a resident of the United States for some years, runs a school of iconography. This school has long conducted workshops and courses to the public. I find the artistic style rather lush, distracting and overly dreamy; however, the content of a good number of his works are of greater concern. I have written about his Paternity and Maternity paintings on another thread; he seems to also have a great fondness for “mystical” subjects like Angel of Holy Silence.

img_0074.jpg

Here, he goes further with the Holy Silence theme, by adding a star on the forehead and shoulders of the angel (as would be the case with icons of the Mother of God); and placing Christ Emmanuel over the angel’s body in the manner of Of the Sign icons. To add to this theological confusion, there is a motif of Christ’s face above the angel.

His school has also produced a number of images called Angel of the Countenance of God. While skilfully painted, and very ornate, their content cannot be described as consistent with Orthodox doctrine and theology. Rather, “imaginative”, “gnostic” and “New-Age” are descriptions which come to mind:

img_0046.jpg

The seven angels flanking the central figure each bear a scroll, on which is a single word: Eros, Philia, Agape, Logos, Sophia, Episteme, Gnosis. These seven angels feature in other, similar works, including the Holy Silence variants.

In icons of the Hospitality of Abraham, and in St Andrei of Radonezh’s Holy Trinity, the vessel in the foreground, containing a calf’s head, prefigures the sacrifice of the Son of God, and the Eucharistic chalice. In this “creative” twist on accepted iconography, Christ Emmanuel is seen inside the vessel, with the inscription Lamb and Logos on either side of Him. More theological and Trinitarian confusion.

img_0049.jpg

It is of great concern that the classes this school provides are very popular. For an iconographer, acquiring skill in painting technique is necessary, but, more important is acquiring a thorough knowledge of what should and should not be painted. It is essential that teachers of iconography are vigilant against the propagation of suspect and uncanonical images. It is acceptable for an iconographer to paint icons of canonical content, even if his skill is not polished. It is unacceptable for him to paint images with a masterly technique, but whose content goes against Orthodox doctrine and theology.

Here is an example of an icon of St Symeon the Pillar-dweller, painted some time in the 19th century, by an unknown Russian. He may well have lived in a little town or remote village somewhere, or perhaps he was a monk, quietly going about his obediences. His work is rustic, even rough, yet this simple, humble icon is powerful and sublime, and, yes, truly beautiful, in its depiction of a great ascetic saint. (click on the thumbnail below to see an enlargement)

 

Attached File  St Symeon the Stylite 19thC russian-icon.jpg   279.27K   3 downloads


Edited by Olga, 24 October 2015 - 09:26 AM.
Restored broken links


#39 Nick Katich

Nick Katich

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 39 posts

Posted 21 November 2010 - 12:10 PM

What canons does the "Ark of Salvation" icon actually violate though? I read the various reasons for considering this icon problematic, but I didn't see any clear strictures against this sort of thing in the Church's tradition. I saw an icon of the Council of Chalcedon that showed Dioscorus and Eutyches standing in the middle with demons on their shoulders- wouldn't that also be pushing an "ecclesiopolitical" agenda?


Ryan: The term "canons" is used much to broadly in most discussions. In that sense, the term canon is too often misused. We are a Eucharistic community and not a juridical (Roman?) one. There is only one canon of the ecumenical and/or regional councils that even deals with icons (apart from their general reaffirmation at the 7th Ecumenical Council). It is Canon 82 of the Council of Trullo (the so-called 5th-6th Council) and it says that Christ should not be depicted as a lamb.

The Canon reads:
In some picutres of the venerable icons, a lamb is painted to which the Precursor points his finger, which is received as a type of grace, indicating beforehand through the Law, our true Lamb, Christ our God. Embracing therefore the ancient types and shadows as symbols of the truth, and patterns given to the Church, we prefer ‘grace and truth,’ receiving it as the fulfillment of the Law. In order therefore that ‘that which is perfect’ may be delineated to the eyes of all, at least in coloured expression, we decree that the figure in human form of the Lamb who taketh away the sin of the world, Christ our God, be henceforth exhibited in images, instead of the ancient lamb, so that all may understand by means of it the depths of the humiliation of the Word of God, and that we may recall to our memory his conversation in the flesh, his passion and salutary death, and his redemption which was wrought for the whole world.

The key to understaning the common understanding in Orthodoxy of how icons should be written is the last sentence. What they depict must be "truth" in what is being conveyed to the eye. Truth could be a historical event or a dogma. The problem with the Ark of Salvation icon that was addressed is not that it depicts "normal: humans such as Luther (many icons include images of humans who are not glorified) but that it expresses a false dogma, namely that the guys on the bank are beyond salvation. We do not know that and should not condemn them in such a fashion.

From now on, I wish people would use the term "canon" to mean the canons of the 7 Councils and by them accepted canons of the regional councils and not introduce a false belief that everything is regulated by the canons.

#40 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 21 November 2010 - 01:10 PM

Thank you, Father, for this. The significance of these particular passages to the campaign for Ivan's glorification have got me stumped. Though I know that an akathist has been written for him, and, if I'm not mistaken, a Vigil service (or, at least, a canon). Perhaps the answer lies there, not that I'm in any great hurry to find out ....


Dear Olga,

I'm pretty sure the verses are intended to mean that Ivan's actions served as a kind of purging of Russia.

In Christ- Fr Raphael




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users