"Theotokos of Vladimir " holy old icon of Mother of God Vladimirskaya.
One of the most venerated icons in the Orthodox World in Russia ! One image a thousand words!
The icon both as object of worship an aid and as artistic expression belongs to the two spheres of faith and art. The artistic aspect of an icon comes second for someone looking upon it through the eyes of a believer and if someone looking at an icon with
only aesthetic criteria they ignore its spiritual side.If we treat an icon in an artistic
level we have missed the real point about an icon. The icon is a part of an act of prayer and worship and this is what makes an icon mysterious and gives it's power.
Iconography is a liturgical art a theology in line and color, a part of the liturgy and if divorced from the liturgy it looses it's true identity.There is an aesthetic link between the icon and the Gospel. The Gospel is an icon in words and the icon is the Gospel in pictures. Icons as an expression of divine beauty makes manifest the attractiveness of God they call us they draw us to themselves.They evoke us joy and eagerness to come closer to the true beauty of living God. We participate in the mystery which is depicted .The Theology of icons is a Theology of presence a doorway to the Kingdom of Heaven which we pass a place of a meeting an encounter with the communion Saints. Through the icon we meet the person that is shown to us.
The artist in any way does not use his art to promote any kind of personal opinion or idea different from his Church ,but only wants to reveal the mystery, power and the glory of Christian faith .Also should ideally must have experiences and a life in a way that his internal state will be reflected in his icons. Many things make an icon painter significant but his life experiences are more powerful and important than his formal education in this holy art. All artists express their internal world through their external art .That is why everybody but especially artists with their internal eye depict the beauty of Paradise rather than the pain of Hell.The byzantine art transport its faithful through the secret symbol (icon ) into a mystical experience of another world around!
" Standing before Byzantine icons in Museums and exhibitions it gives an impression of continuity at an aesthetic and narrative level. We feel the personal martyrdom of the Saints and the only that was missing were the drops of the blood of the martyr's and the only way one could make was by accepting the invitation to mediate and pray visually but icons are meant to be venerated in the Church ...so made us realize that the icons are alive and they were still breathing .It was not an olfactory hallucination found myself praying ,our aesthetic awe and Theological reflection had been transcended." The Byzantine icon was a timeless guardian of the peoples faith because it is primarily a work with a Theological message and promotes a Theology
that the Christian mystery is played out for all eternity.The icon touches on the everyday life of a Christian and participates in the Liturgy and mysteries as a representative mentally portraying the painted figure .Icons were at the center of Byzantine art and life .They were seen and venerated by all those who identified themselves as belonging to the culture .They were made to last for eternity outline humans ,yet sewing the beliefs and attitudes of their producers and audience in all sort of ways.
Icons can influence viewers and create an atmosphere more potent than most other art form and can strike your soul to the very depths that open your eyes to the beauty of God ,love and truth leading your soul to worship him..inviting you to change.
Byzantine icons had a functional as well as an aesthetic aim,they were made as props in the face of joy and sorrow ,happiness and pain.They received the prayer and veneration that passed through them to the "other world" that they symbolized and they were to reflect the power of God! But why we lit vigil lamps before icons? Because our faith is light .Christ said : "I am the light of the World. "The light of the vigil lamp reminds us of the light by which Christ illuminates our souls and in order to remind us of the radiant character of the Saint before whose icon ,we light the vigil
lamp. The saints are called "Sons of light " which try to fulfill the commandments of the Saviour: "Let your light so shine before men,that they see your good works."Also Saint Luke 11:34-36 said: "The light of the body is the eye." Let the gates of glory open wide". But the evil powers love the darkness and tremble at every light,especially
at that which belongs to God and to those who please Him.Because just as the vigil lamp cannot be lit without our hands ,so too our heart our inward vigil lamp cannot be lit without the holy fire of God's grace and the holy icons have the power to do it! Because the Creator of the World created light and after that anything else and from the light of Christ's truth subsequently every good is created, springs up and grow in us.
Each icon had to maintain its power for century after century.In Byzantium private
devotion involved the use of icons,early icons were often portraits of Christ ,Virgin,
prophets,or Saints.The worshipers have a personal relationship to the holy figure or enter into the narrative as if actually present at the event.The increasing interest in the lifelike qualities of the icon and its ability to elicite emotional response from the viewer is seen in Michael Psello's description of an icon of the Crucifixion of Christ. "But as the (divine ) force moved the painter's hand...he showed Christ living at his last breath ..at once living and lifeless ." Just squeezing the life out of the art work.
Believers were encouraged to contemplate events from the life of Christ or Virgin,
or the Saints as if they were present." An icon in a church was available in what was for Byzantines a second home,the meeting place of an extended family.Icons brought comfort in times of sorrow and hardship,were companion ,guardians and courts of last resort.There are countless stories of people who have been healed by icons ,cities protected by icons from invaders,Holy Monasteries devoted to Mother of God that was build under her guidance and direction.Thousands of faithful Christians make Churches and Monasteries,pilgrimages to venerate these miraculous icons all over the World from some seeking healing ,others offering thanksgiving to God for His grace and protection through the icons.Their creators developed a mode of expression intended to endure beyond the topical and the individual moment.That artistic conformity offered spiritual comfort through familiarity and also confirmed the unchanged truths of Christianity.The symbolic language of icons had to be as durable and familiar as the regular celebration of the Christian liturgy in church.
Many people learn best visually and their hearts captured visually by painting.The Holy Spirit speaks through the icons that are complementing the written words of
the scripture.And the interesting is that we don't have to study in order to understand and feel this profound religious art because is spiritual and its rooted in the truth.
FAMOUS PAINTERS INFLUENCED BY BYZANTINE ART
The true meaning of the icons can only be interpreted by people rooted in the same spirit as the art itself. All we need is a devout and pure heart and just to gaze and we appreciate it as a feeling rather than with our mind ,as is the case with naturalistic art . Even famous painters such as Matisse,Manet,Cezanne,Amedeo,Modigliani, Diego de Rivera ,Picasso and Jackson Pollock have been influenced heavily by El Greco's incredible modern style with influences from Byzantine Art .His work also inspired those outside the realm of painting such as writers Rainer Maria Rilke and the Greek writer Nikolaos Kazantzakis.
Henry Matisse was particularly impressed by icons,he visited Moscow of November 1911 specifically to look art of another period and culture and he became very interested in Byzantine aesthetics. A Russian painter ,collector and patron of the Tretyakov Gallery wrote about his visit: "Matisse is here and completely overwhelmet by icon painting.He has lost his head for the icons and spends whole days with me running around to Churches,Monasteries and Collections".Matisse also saw icons at the Kremlin and the collection of I. Ostroukhov were he said that Matisse was delighted gazing and studing the icons the whole evening delighting in each one.Matisse said that for those icons alone it would have been worth his while coming from a city even further away than Paris...! Matisse liked so much the icons and they became a direct source for his paintings and at that time he stated :"Byzantine icons are a great Art.I am in love with their moving simplicity which to me is closest and dearest than Fra Angelico.In these icons the soul of the artist who painted them opens up like a mystical flower and from them we ought to learn how to understand Art."
"The religious Western art expression of the Greek Cretan icon painter and artist Domenicos Theotokopoulos "El Greco"through the sight of the Orthodox Greek iconography and the mysterious language of Holy icons"
El Greco born in 1541 in the island of Crete ,Greece that was a colony of the republic of Venice.There he was trained as an icon painter painting initial icons in Byzantine maniera influenced from the art of Byzantium. El Greco in Spanish means the Greek ,
refer both to his Greek origin and Spanish citizenship. The exraordinary Greek artist ,painter,designer and engraver is Spain's most mysterious artist ever! He normally ,proudly for his Greek origins signed with his full birth name in Greek "Domenikos Theotokopoulos " announced his Cretan origins by his signature adding the word "Κρής/Kres " means Cretan,from the island Crete-Greece on his most important paintings .Domenicos very known post byzantine icon is "St Luke painting the Virgin Mary" and the " Dormition of Theotokos " an icon from his early works when curators discovered by his signature at the base of candelabrum located at the center of the icon.This icon is displayed at "Koimeses Theotokou" church in Ermoupolis Siros -Greece.
He travelled to Venice at 1567 as many others icon painters had done like Andreas Pavias (you can see the Crusifixion icon at National Gallery of Greece),Nikolaos Ritzos and others Greek Cretan painters of 15th and 16th century.There was many Greek communities in Venive,Trieste and Leghorn.Venice was the center of Post Byzantine World Art.El Greco in 1570 moved to Rome were he enrich his style with elements of Mannerism and of the Venetian Renaissance and later moved to Toledo,Spain were he had the best inspiration and received several major comissions and produced his paintings.
He is best known for his mature paintings in Spain with Mannerism and his extremely religious idiosyncratic art,bold rejection of naturalism with strange colours and tortuously elongated figures (in Byzantine art the figures are elongated too and must be the total length of any Saint eight-nine times as it is the length of the head
of the Saint) marrying Byzantine traditions with those of Western paintings.What makes El Greco feel so contemporary for us derives,pretty much in its entirety from
a religious convictions so intense and passionate that it broke all the conventions of Western painting having in his paintings a respect for Neoplatonic theory about art embodying a high realm of the spirit. El Greco influenced tremendusly by the Byzantine spiritual art from his origin Greece ,he belonged to a Greek Orthodox
family. El Greco's modernism is based on his repudiation of the world of mere appeareances in favour of the realm of the intelect and the spirit. It as a challenge to see the artist's vision and passion through their paintings ,to look beyond these paintings surfaces and all the way to grace! And this is exactly that comes from Byzantium and from the symbolic language of the mysterious holy iconography.
That's why El Greco's paintings have a philoshophical,intelectual and religious undertaking and the anagogic effect as the Byzantine icons. El Greco's paintings in
the mid-19 century inspired everyone from Manet to Cezanne and so many others.
El Greco transformed the byzantine style of his early paintings into another Western style exagerating features in the representation of divine and supernatural elements,
showing epiphanies,the revelation of God on earth ,elongated figures in result to characterized him a madman ! Late 17 th and early 18th century Spanish commentators praised his skill but criticised his complex iconography .Some of
these described his mature work as "contemptible","rediculous" and "worthy of scorn"! The view of Palomino and Bermudex for the art of El Greco were frequentlty repeated in Spanish historiography adorned with terms such as "strange","queer",
"original","eccentric" and "odd".The phrase "sunk in eccentricity",often encountered in such texts in time developed into "madness". Some experts,later on consider defective vision(astigmatism),mental aberration or drug addiction as explanation
for his mysterious expression and style paintings but this wasn't true.But also some
experts suggested that his expression of art was influenced by El Greco's intensified religious feelings and they had right.
Looking all his religious paintings which was full of the existence of the spiritual World like " The Adoration of the name of Jesus" and his masterpiece "The Burial of Count Orgas" one thing is obvious and true that Domenicos Theotokopoulos known as El Greco was truly a madman" A fool for Christ!" He was passionate having Eros for God his Saviour Jesus Christ! If someone wants to be of those who truly labor for Christ he also has to be fool for His sake. If Christ was willing to be regarded as a fool ,so too,must we.Saint Paul at I CORINTHIANS 4:10 wrote: "For the wisdom of this World is foolishness with God","We have been made a spectacle to the World,both to angels and to men.We are fools for Christ's sake.."The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise ,that they are futile." This is the reason they characterized him as a madman and
mysterious and they couldn't understand his art because this wisdom was according to Christ's and his Orthodox Church!
El Greco was ahead of his time using his artwork as an instrument to express his visionary and spontaneous deeply religious personality knowing that his art works will have audience not only from his friends and folks but from future admirers and spiritual thirsty observers through the ages...He learned in his homeland Greece
that icons are the "Gospel of the illiterate" and the Gospel is a continuous " Preacher" through the history of the World with a power to transform people's lives leading to salvation.That's why his religious paintings travelling on time! El Greco was a faithful Christian Orthodox in his mind and heart and an artist with vision living in Catholic Spain giving to "The God and to the Ceasar what was obliged to give" according to the Scripture, for this reason his Western paintings can only be understood completely through the sight of the Orthodox spirituality and Dogmas and mainly through the language of the holy icons of an Orthodox icon painter.The true meaning of icons can only be interpreted by people in the same spirit as the Byzantine art it self and with the language of the Byzantine iconography.
Domenicos at the age of 26 years old was already a master in icon painting in Crete and through his art used succesfuly this language to express himself in order to reveal the existence of the reality of the spiritual World around us and the glory of Christian faith because is obvious he had experiences seen and felt the Highest
Beauty and light and knew that Christ is the true God our Saviour. He also knew
that the real meaning of life is the salvation of the soul.He wanted this to reveal it
to the others also to wake them up because Byzantine Orthodox iconography is an increasingly powerful tool based on the idea of salvation that cares not only for ourselves but also for all the Humanity.God gave the commandment to love and care for our brothers like ourselves and Saint Paul said "Let no one seek his own but each others well being".This is the reason they characterised him as "A passionate single-minded outrageous outsider that he wanted to save all the Humanity!" In his paintings with epiphanies Domenicos seems to "make visible the borderline between Heaven and Earth trying to portray the invisible made visible and confess the salvation in deed and word depicting it in his paintings " as Saint John Damascus said for the holy icons. The most part of his paintings are religious Western but still...using his own painterly language managed his art work to be "Entrances into another cosmos which is to be revealed in its fullest at the end of time" as Saint Basil the Great said for the holy icons. That's why El Greco famously said:" The language
of art is celestial in origin" meaning that is inspired by God.
No painter before or since has captured the mystery of the spiritual World like El Greco. Domenicos Theotokopoulos fulfilled completely his duty as an icon painter
to enter the observers into the reality of the spiritual World creating unique religious paintings "Windows to the Kingdom of God" instead of ...Byzantine icons!!
Although combined traditions of 2 different countries of Italy and Spain in his
religious paintings used the language which he never forgot from his homeland Greece and this is the mysterious language of holy icons.Domenicos succeeded to deliver a critical ,spiritual message through his art to all the Humanity and died on April 1614 unappreciated in his time with the art World waiting 250 years embracing his status as a master.
But today 400 years after his death El Greco with his remarkable paintings and his unique outside of the norm expression and style and way of seeing recognised universally as "A genious artist" ahead of his time and according to my humble opinion is a timeless Messenger,a "preacher" artist for the soul salvation through
the Christianity. His art work that hangs today in the most importants Museums around the World demands attention,text decodingby all kind of experts and can feel shockingly so contemporary and so up to date and with an eschatological message that will outlast for years! (Continues...)
Also is interesting an early icon of El Greco that I have seen and exists in the National Museum of Serbia (Belgrad).It is the icon of "Madre de Consolazione" attributed to El Greco (signed by him?) at 1560 when he was in Venice. The icon is portable has no gold leaf ,the Virgin and Child (totally Venetian style) is on land scape ( that is unusual in post Byzantine icons) is narrative and is written the Greek letters "MΡ ΘΕΟΥ" means Mother of God .The Virgin is with dark maphorion
(usually is red in this type) with the Child on her left side (often is in right side), above is the Crusifixion of Christ on a landscape and right and left very detailed scenes from the life of Christ with the line ,colors and brushstrokes that remind us the El Greco!On the right of the Virgin has 6 small scenes with the Passion, Ressurection of Christ etc.On the left has 6 small scenes with Annunciation ,Birth
of Christ,Adoration of Magi etc.This icon propably is not very known to the public because is not concluded to his known paintings , is very important early career complex icon influenced by Italian prototypes (Western origin/Venice) and this type
is unusual in Byzantine icon painting.
You can see some of El Greco's paintings on You tube a small but meaningfull video
one of my favorites: " Toledo,Spain: The art of El Greco-Youtube (Rick Steve's Europe)."
"The soul,the eye,the mind's vision, and an Orthodox heart with real faith creates an icon's window to Eternity."
THE BYZANTINE AESTHETIC
ETERNALLY BEAUTIFUL ICONS
It is known that after the fall of Constantinople the Byzantine icon painting was continued in communities in Italy. In the 16th and early 17th century high quality icons has been painted for Greek and also for Catholic clients from icon painters who often originally came from Crete ,Greece and many sophisticated icons executed by them of the local Greek communities around 1600.
Eternally beautiful Byzantine Art icons produced in Greece.For over a millenium
Byzantine artists in Greece produced symptous works of extraordinary quality and caliber .The produced icons which embody a flawless union of the aesthetic and spiritual qualities of the iconographer's art. Whether inspired by the ethos of the new Christian Orthodox religion or the tangible legacy of Classical Antiquity, these Greek artisans and craftsmen created a uniquely "Byzantine aesthetic" which in time came to influence the artistic tradition of Italy ,Russia ,the Balkans, the Caucasus and
the Near East! What the alluring Greek icon share..is a jewel-like appearance, a graceful aesthetic,a sophisticating meaning ,a deep spirituality ,an uplifting beauty and the observer whether is a believer,visitor or a collector finds this unbearably inspiring and enriching because it springs from the only truth ,from the Scripture and from God. A heavenly World aspired one to join!
Meanwhile Orthodox Christians have been socialized all these years with icons in their Churches and homes and Monasteries but their educational potential has not suficienly explored or developed by contemporary Orthodox Christians educators.
We must turn our attention and rediscover these "qualities " and the power in icons in conversation with Theology,Art,educational theory,and sciences.
Whenever one goes to Hagia Sofia Church in Constantinople looking the Byzantine icons has the sense that God is looking back and our whole person is involved .What the prayers and music of a feast convey through the ears ,the icons convey visually and one understands immediately that this work has been fashionated not by Human power or skill but by the influence of God.And so the visitor's mind is lifted up to God and floats thinking that he cannot be far away but must love to dwell in this place which He himself has chosen.
" The Greeks led us to the "building" where they worship their God,and we knew whether we were in Heaven or on Earth.For on Earth there is no such splendor or such beauty,and we are at a loss how to describe it.We only know that God dwells there among men and we cannot forget that beauty.."
The legacy of Byzantines art may be traced in many places and may be evaluated in a variety of ways from fresco Churches of Roumania ,Russia,Serbia etc to the mannerist canvasses of the Cretan born painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos; from the Neo Byzantine murals in contemporary Orthodox Churches today.The legacy of Byzantine art is measured in its formative impact on such early Italian masters as Duccio and others and through them on the Renaissance.Though only recently it became apparent how heavily and specifically those famous panel painters depended on direct exposure to Byzantine Art icons and how critical those icons were keeping
alive during the Middle Ages the ancient tradition of panel portraiture and that the Byzantine legacy had those elusive ,ultimately Hellenic qualities of gentle beauty,
reserved dignity and subtle pathos ,faces known in art as "Greek faces".The Hellenic wisdom while it fails to render glory to the Divine is not failing in Theology and knew that nature was made by the Creator ,they have a knowledge of the Creator through the centuries.
Meantime Photios Kontoglou a great Modern Greek educated painter,writer and faithful icon painter succeeded in creating an authentic Greek Byzantine art setting his seal perhaps more indelibly than any other in the intellectual identity of the Greek nation in the 20th century not only with his art but with his books also.He was the leading figure in the revival of Byzantine icon painting in Greece and in Usa. All the modern iconographers today we are so thankful to this great master for his art and especially for his books "Ekfrasis" theory and icons study of the Orthodox Iconography!
A twelfth century Byzantine writer assured his contemporaries that " The Apostle Luke was Greek and "as a Greek was a good painter ".His likeness was trusworthy and authoritative.The idea was echoed in a sermon by a fourteenth -century Dominican monk in Florence named Fra Giordano da Rivalto which he spoke of "Old pictures from Greece in which Saints were depicted exactly as they appeared in life" and insist that "the old images imported from Greece long ago possess the greatest possible authority and are proof just as compelling as.. Scripture." The powerful icon conveys the spiritual truth via the senses and leads every human sentiment and logical construct toward the Kingdom of God the Eternity.. and into this world steps the viewer.
"Use your talent to glorify the Lord..!
WHO IS THE TRUE ARTIST..?
The holy icon of the face of Christ our Saviour is the crown of all icons, brings the beholder into a deep connection with the power of God. When an icon painter painting an icon of the Lord the icon image of Christ is the individual artist's personal perception of the Christ according to his own personal experience and the observer can see Jesus Christ through the spiritual eyes of the icon painter.Icons embody the artist's interpretation of the subject matter that is portrayed and in this way reveal truth from both positive or negative way.The expression of the Christian faith and life in Christ is absent from the icon when the icon painter lacks the necessary knowledge of the Dogmas of Christian Faith.The sober presence of the Lord in an icon makes us feel uncofortable because we realize how far short we fall from the highest Beauty and power of God.When we are in front of the icon of the Lord we feel the effect of judgement from the only true God and the interesting is that He does it ..in silence, teaching us without any use of words those who look upon His holy icon.The Lord
look right through us because He knows every of our thoughts and makes an invitation to follow Him and imitate Him.Christ beautiful face looks at us through the ruins of our World as if to say "O what have you done to the work of my hands?"
We are the works of His hand. Saint Damascus said "It is obvious that when you contemplate God becoming man,then you may depict him clothed in Human form draw His image and show it to anyone willing to gaze upon it." The eyes of any truly compassion human being reflect in a marvelous manner the beauty of God's compassion for His world .This feeling is registered in the face of our Lord and his Saint's and are present in icons.Like a hidden fire it warms our hearts with a sense of God's mighty promises and the love they make possible for us living here below. It is a mystery how our Lord reveal to us using the most Holy Art of Iconography using just an icon.
"But who is a the true artist ? An artist is one who from crude and shapeless
stones carves and shapes forms similar to living creatures.An artist is one who weaves a multi colored blanket from the wool of sheep.An artist is one who builds
a magnificent palace out of earthly bricks .But what kind of artist on earth can be compared to Christ the true and ultimate Artist who from the illiterate men creates wise men, who from fishermen creates Apostles,who from cowards creates heroes ,
who from the immoral creates Saints? But all must be given to the hand of the artist in order to be fashioned into that which the artist knows and is capable of doing.Even men must give themselves over to the hand of Christ in order for Him to carve ,to weave or to built that which only He knows and is capable of. Nineteen past centuries witness to us that all of them who did not protest against Him but rather gave themselves over to Christ the artist from the boorish and the ignorant became angel seeing children of God." (Saint Nikolai Velimirovich )
The gift of art is one given to humans and is worthy of being devoted to God. It is
not suprice that those who have been compelled by love to show devotion to God in art are rewarded with images that inspire both the observer and the artist.The beauty of icons is spiritual ,the icon painters have seen and felt spiritually that beauty that would save the World and immortilized it in colors.Icons point to this beauty and art as a means of experiencing God. Saint Damascus said that "icons sanctify the sense of sight for those who gaze upon them". No wonder icons looks so serious because our condition is so serious.Icons created for the sole purpose of offering access through
the gate of visible to the mystery of the invisible.It is He who gives us the capacity to paint icons,to theologize ,to live.He is the way and the door,the pasover to life and to the fulfilment of life.God created the Human capacity for communication through the arts and He empowered us to be creatively expressive."Art is a recognizable language understood by all." It provides a way of experience one's self in relation to the universe representing a continuum human experience and enhance our sense of our richness of Human life.God refresh and direct all of us to to the ultimate source of truth , good and beauty of God.Artistic creativity and beauty are the gifts of God and their function is to glorify God uplifting the human's mind and soul into the reality of Heaven.Saint Luke said:"The light of the body is the eye" the icon is a gate of glory and the goal in icons is to renter a spiritual feeling of divinity rather to portray realistic events and is to elevate the artwork high above our heads so that the spectator has to gaze upward to Heaven.The true icon painter being a living member of the Church is nurished by all the Scripture,the Theologians of the Church,the hymnographers,the holy icons that they are God bearing pure images of the Archetype.The icon radiates ,transfuse the grace that it has received from the Church encouraging the beleiver and it sunctifies the soul and body of the whole World.The icon construction is not due to Human invention.It is a spiritual service,the work of the Holy Spririt.All is an icon ,a melody, a theanthropic equilibrium.Christ does everything.As the priests celebrates the liturgy,so the theologians and the true icon painter like a deacon create and exersise the sacred art and service for the Church.All become an instrument and in that state of spiritual maturity surrender totally to the divine will and they feel that Another acts,energizes and is made manifest through them."We cannot look on the icon of the Lord except through the illumination of the Holy Spirit.It is through this illumination
that we see the radiance of the glory of God in the Holy icon of the Theanthropos Jesus Christ that making the Lord's presence with us more manifest" as Saint Basil said.
The artist depends on inspiration ,wants to open our hearts the meaning of God's World but any impulse not directed in this way to the service of what God has said
to us in Scripture and tradition is foreign to icons.
The icon of our most Holy Theotokos Mother of God brings the beholder into the mystery of the Union of divinity and humanity.She is the Hodegetria which quides all of us to her son Jesus Christ our God and Saviour.Remember the Patriarch Jacob's vision in Old Testament .He saw a ladder ascending to Heaven with Angels ascending and descending on it .God descended to man having become incarnate .Theotokos is the ladder which united Heaven and Earth. She is the Hodegetria the Directress which showing us the way the Heaven .Her son Jesus Christ is the way and the life.
Thetokos is His Mother and for her prayers finds special favor before her son.
The icons of Saints brings to the beholder into the possibility of establishing the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.The icons of Saints and martyrs are visions of what man can become if he allows God to penetrate every aspect of his life.These holy
men of all times who pleased God ,whose biografies have remaing in writing for
our benefit and for the purpose of our salvation so that our mind may remember them and so that we may lifted up to their level of conduct.The prayers of Saints rising up to God like an incense.The sacred figures are set in icons beyond real time and real space through the use of gold background. The figures depicted frontally focusing on the eyes which depicted larger in order to express more effective the spiritual qualities inviting and serving to instruct the faithful .The nose is made thin and long and the mouth small to keep the silense. The ears are big enable to hear the words of God the Gospel ,the hymns and the prayers for the glory of God.The fingers are thin and elongated .The figures have a facial expression with reserved dignity in order to present an external expression of the transfigured state of the Saint whose senses have been spiritualized .The body tall and thin is elongated as a means of "dematerialization". The trees,buildings ,rivers are transformed and the mountains looking like stairs leading also to Heaven.The figures of Saints depicted like visions. The true icon painter making an attempt to elevate us to eternity the realm of spirit Each icon is a reflection of the higher World.
As you gaze into the great all seeing eyes of the Saints one sterny condemning one benighly forgiving ,you are looking at a form of religious expression that set out to prove it self superior and with a spiritual presense that would outlast the years! But today we have degenarated are wallowing in material things ,and we are incapable of feeling the spiritual..Yet our ancestors who were illiterate understood and venerated these stern and spiritual works of art that we see in old Churches and in Monasteries and caves painted on the wall or on wood ..
But why does this beauty of this art still moves and transform us and why we paint icons? Byzantine art has often been scorned as decadent and lifeless; but of recent years there has been manifest a growing appreciation of its permanent value, significance and eschatological message.The modern world interest in icons and
has given rise to an ever larger volume of studies ,publications,museums and private collections.The study of the entire art of the Orthodox Christianity and especially the mysterious power of Byzantine icons today is the most rapidly developing field in the history of Art.This art have the power to transforms us because is an expression of the truth of the Theological experience and faith of the Church and a statement of it. A "Dogma" in color with a specific relationship to the Scriptural text. The icon
traditionally is called " historesis" (history or narrative) and the painter is the "historiographer". St. Gregory of Nyssa said that the icons " knows how to be a silent Scripture that speaks from the wall".We paint icons because there is something inside us which needs to get out.This creative processes taking place deep inside our mind ,heart and soul.We believe ...and with this way building bridges for soul salvation between ourselves and Christianity and the rest of Humanity. Reuniting, reinforcing cultural ties and traditions and recording like a diary our experiences of the sweetness and beauty of God ,emotions ,feelings,memories,and our most intimate thoughts using natural pigments and our brushstrokes.But someone must have critical skills to enter this world and understand these Theological works of arts .This art has the power to influence the world a transformative power in society and can speak in silence in multiple ways that can heal..Is an exceptional art because of the conversation it can stimulate to the viewer which makes it a cultural good.Today we need to seek out the art objects that are cultural and express ideas of improving the world around us. The observers must put an effort to look the icons in a different way of seeing and with a different way of thinking about the meaning of life.Our soul begs to live for ever and ever! We want to increase the global understanding of the holy Art of Byzantium!
The icon painters fashioned by the Byzantine Culture and aesthetic but they have nothing much to be proud of for themselves .They only doing the part of the work a service to be the medium. It is futile of us to think that we are the creator of this art. There is only one Creator. "Where there is light from Tabor,there is no room from darkness when there is light every nook and cranny is illuminated." This beauty is
not human but Heavenly. Great masterpieces and miraculous icons were created
in those days from icon painters who followed the strict standards of the Orthodox faith. If the icon painters work without faith, hurriedly and without feeling the result is these icons can not stir any emotion or reflect any light.For an exemplary icon to stand out in its class it must show Christian truths or realities better than other images do and to have the charisma to deliver directly what they show describing
the Byzantine view and experience of this holy art of Byzantium which had to do with the Orthodox view of being and could secrete their blessings and perform miracles.Everything has to be done as thought in God's view...The artist interprets
his impressions into canvas. Holy icons are acts of worship which depict eternity. They are reflections of the eternal glory of Heaven literally frozen in time and in time they are accessible to us.Byzantine iconography is a "Doxology" to the glorious God!
This is " our way " to spread the message to touch the soul and help the others to see the truth more clearly offering them access to a visual superior spiritual experience. We want to express how we feel for things that we can't express with words...
Byzantine Art is a style or mode of expression,is the art of Constantinople (330-1453) the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and the art of Orthodoxy.The Byzantine Empire was one of the most enduring and fascinating empires in History and left a special mark on art and architecture. Constantine the Great is considered the real founder of the Byzantine Empire after making Christianity legal throughout the empire and moving the Capital to a City that he created and born his name Constantinople that today its called by the Turks Istanbul. Constantinople was founded on a place of a Greek colony named Byzantium.Byzantine civilization blended Christians beliefs with Greek science,philosophy, arts and literature. Byzantine artists made unique contributions that influenced Western styles from
the Middle Ages to the present opening up the splendor of God's world a world of light, color , harmony and enable us to become aware of our spiritual nature.
For 1,000 years the Byzantines built on the culture of Hellenistic World and teach
us how to follow deeper and deeper the idea of Highest Beauty and in the end to
come close to the idealistic Beauty and light of God. Byzantine Art is one of the
most solemn and elevated modes of religious expression which is eager to deliver
an eschatological message and a complicated Theology for those who are willing to perceive it with their own eyes and also a philosophical conception of life using colors through the prism of eternity. A conception which is the global sinfulness of a man
as result of which he distanced him self from the Lord Jesus Christ the author of salvation, the absolute ruler which exercises absolute power unrestrained by superiors, and now... could only with fear and honor awaiting the uncompromising Judge.
It is interesting that when we see an icon we sense that the space of the icon is opening up. Icons use "reverse perspective"where the vanishing point isn't placed "within the picture".This mean that the vanishing point is placed at the site of the viewer in the lines of perspective expanding out from the viewer as one enters the world of the picture. Icons as already we mention are windows into Heaven.The World,the icon is trying to depict is considered to be more real than this World,
ontologically.Human imagination has its unique way of expressing truth and reality,it uses a language of concrete images and sensations to capture a sense of life and Human experience. A work of art is a window to reality,like lens that distorts in order to enable us to see something more clearly, the artistic imagination in icons creates imaginary worlds that allow us to see reality with heightened clarity.Works of arts embody the artist's interpretation of the subject matter that is portrayed.The arts with this way reveal truth from both a positive and a negative perspective.The use of perspective helps, communicate this truth.As we stare into the icon the world we are looking into isn't shrinking or vanishing but it is expanding and growing because Heaven is more real and larger than this world. Reverse perspective is that the focal point in the icon sits upon the viewer ,that means the icon is looking at you .So you are the focal point.The world of the icon is more real than this world .With this way ,you are the picture and Heaven is the watcher and is watching at you...
LEADING FROM SIGHT TO KNOWLEDGE...
The ontological value of the icon depicts how the onlooker first physically perceives the image and then reaches an intellectual understanding of the divine and it is interesting the process through which the final goal is achieved. The onlooker conciously moves forward from physical to metaphysical sight .It is self -directed enlightening because the beholder has autonomy. Looking at the icon the viewer inscribes a kind of autonomous gaze ..The icon's anagogic effect acts on the viewers passionate part. The affecting power of the gaze is now directed toward spiritual love.
MYSTICAL MIRRORS OF THE DIVINE
THE HIGHEST BEAUTY AND LIGHT OF GOD
"THE DORMITION OF THEOTOKOS" / "Η ΚΟΙΜΗΣΗ ΤΗΣ ΘΕΟΤΟΚΟΥ ".
"The icon is the last arrow of Human Eros shot at the heart of mystery ." Paul Evdokimof
St. George icon by the Greek icon painter Emmanuel Tzanes the Cretan (1600) the icon now housed in the Museum of the Hellenic and Byzantine and Post Byzantine Institute in Venice in Italy, attached to the Church of the Saint Georgio dei Greci, the oldest and historically (the Renessance years ) the most important church (outside Greece ) of the Orthodox Diaspora .The institute has in its possession 300 icons.
To come before an icon is to come before the presence of God.To gaze at an icon is to pray .To pray is to stand before God with the intellect in the heart.
This is the purpose of the icon is a "Quiding image",a prayerfull communion that leads the viewers into worship.As we gaze at a byzantine icon we sense that..we are mysteriously drawn to the icon and truly the Heavens are open and the glory of God is revealed.Icons were used in Byzantium as quides that helped illuminate the divine mysteries of Church doctrine.Icons are a call to silence to spiritually thirsty people.An icon indicate the attitude we should have towards God and towards the World when we pray.
An icon ought to depict not only the outward but also the inner life,
holiness and closeness to heaven. This is depicted primarily in the face
and its expression .The iconographer directed all their attention to conveying the state of the soul concealed beneath the flesh. The more successful was...the better the icon was. One cannot paint an icon by depicting the external aspect alone . This can be achieved most successfully by the person who himself leads a Spiritual life and understands..
Many icons executed in this manner ,the Lord granted wonder working power. For this reason the most famous and miraculous icons are the icons of the Evangelist Apostle Luke.
The iconographer has three means to paint icons:
1. According to the Orthodox Church Fathers (when someone speaks about God he is to do so on the basis of the inner experiences he has accumulated).
2.The supporting testimony of the Holy Spirit in his heart and
3. The documented experiences in Church tradition.
Iconography is subject to strict cannons with church rules dictating what the painter can and cannot do.If the iconographer does not have experiences of his own to reflect upon,he turns to those who have experiences and for that reason he uses those expressions. If his experiences differs from that of the Holy Fathers and the testimonies held and handed down by the Church then he knows it is not authentic and will not allow it to enter the icons he paints.Furthermore those who lack personal experience of God will copy models of icons that have been handed down by those who have experiences. Although icon painting is dynamic the iconographer have to be bold because continuing just to make copies is as if he has nothing to say. The icon painter has to put something of himself to his icons. If the icon don't stir any emotion ,Christians will have no dialogue with them..
The goal of the iconographer should never be to merely paint the Face of God but to gaze upon it just as Moses the God. Iconography is a living Art the icon is a window not a picture.The success is to create a window into the spiritual World rather than a window into the material world ."It is first and foremost a sacramental then a work of art .The iconographer target is to be the medium through which that manifestation can happen and then disappear. The iconographer must have an intimate contact with the holy subject in result the Saints( which writes) through the holy icons
to be completely capable of speaking in silence ,for themselves and their own experience with God .The Orthodox Church will continue to produce holy icons worthy of the name for as long as iconographers are willing to acquire and uphold and live the Orthodox faith,and obedience to the Church and souls will continue to be saved as a result. Icons are the visual proof of our faith and make the believers feel that Christ and the Saints are present and alive. Iconography is called rightly so a liturgical Art. Just like a priest has a rite for saying mass so the iconographers have their guidelines.The rules that an iconographer must abide by are contained in specific manuals 'Hermeneia '' (Interpretation) the most famous of which is by Donysius of Furna and it dates back to the beginning of the century.
THE EFFECT OF THE HOLY ICONS
The holy icon can withhold its light from those who look upon it without the proper disposition .Also speaking about the effect holy icons have on those that look upon them..Evdokimov states: the icon can say nothing to the conscious denial of the mysterious ".It judges such a denial by refusing to manifest its light. The believer is like the Apostles who witness the transfigured and so both the iconographer and the faithful who look upon the holy icon ,can be granted transformation so that each can firmly and honesty claim:"In thy light shall we see light." This is what St. Basil says concerning the great gift with which the great old iconographers masters
depicted the Christian faith and life in Christ, a gift which is put to use in
the most sacred of Art forms called Iconography( Αγιογραφία ) .
Through this technique is depicted the great and holy events of Christ pertaining to man`s salvation are put in color ;the mystical experiences of Great Saints are made visible and all of this is done through the hand of the iconographer. For this reason signs the icon "by the hand of..."
The icon painter does not use iconography to promote an ideology or personal opinion; Having been blessed by the Church to carry on this form
of non verbal theological activity, willingly and humbly works under guidance of Church canons, tradition and councils.The icon is a revelation of transfiguration. Like the Gospel texts,icons aim to transform the viewer. As an example ill remind you the power of Holy Cross and an icon of Theotokos(Mother of God) that was in Jerusalem and transform the life of a sinful woman from Egypt to a Saint! Her sins prevent her from seeing the Life creating Wood of the Holy Cross of Christ (Exaltation) but the grace of the Lord and Theotokos through her icon above the portico of the Church touched her heart and changed her life transforming her to a Saint Mary of Egypt !
"Tradition never shackles the creative power of the iconographer "Ouspensky writes" whose individuality expresses itself in the composition as well in the color and line. But the personal here is much more subtle than in the other arts and so often escapes superficial observation. Despite similarities each icon is unique.The Byzantine theologian "as Ouspensky writes"often sets the calling of an icon painter on an equal level with that of a priest devoted to the service of a more sublime reality ,he exercises his objective duty the same way as the liturgical priest.The "spiritual genuineness" of the icon ,the cryptic almost sacral power to convince is not alone due to accurate observation of the iconographic canon but also the ascetic fervor and faith of the icon painter because "it is not yours what you do not have and know ,while you cannot share what is not yours."The success of such images hinges on whether or not the iconographer chose to follow not only to paint, but to live the holy Orthodox faith and willing to acquire ,and uphold the Orthodox faith ,piety, self denial and obedience to the Church and souls will continue to be saved as a result.Countless miracle -working icons testify to holy icons participating in an intimate relationship with their prototypes. The iconographer will contribute to the sanctification of countless other souls as St. Damascus testifies: " I have looked upon the human form of God ,and my soul has been saved."
" It is an experience of holy desire. The images comes alive but as a physical being one that breaths and fills the Church with her aroma. It is as if one ran into a photograph of a loved one and the moment they laid their eyes on it,
the person came alive. An icon like a photograph can trigger all kind of experiences that do not include its aesthetic form. As I come closer, the Icon of Mother of God pulls me toward Her as if She were a magnet and I need to be alone because I want to embrace Her for hours.A breath of life enters my soul and filled with grace.I do not wish to leave. Love ,longing eros for God,
a burning fire; when the Icon is miraculous the very moment you enter the Church it exuds such a sweet smelling breath that you remain ecstatic for hours ..being not in yourself but in fragrant Paradise."
" Icons are windows through which viewers and holy subject make contact. Their gold background dematerialize them and set them outside human experience. Icons seem almost unchanging over centuries .The icon painter works faithfully to reproduce the model.
Saint Basil said : "Just us painters in working from models constantly gaze at their exemplar and thus strive to transfer the expression of the original to their artistry ,so too he who is anxious to make him self perfect in all the kinds of virtue must gaze upon the lives of Saints as upon statues, so to speak that move and act and must make their excellence his own by limitation. "
" Saint Basil the Great"
THE MYSTICAL MEANING OF BYZANTINE ICONS..
ANTHOLOGY ABOUT BYZANTINE ICONS
"The word " Icon" is from the Greek eikona (εικόνα) a likeness profile or
a figurative representation or resemblance -image. A depiction of Christ or the Mother of God,a Saint ,an Angel or depictions of the historical events in the life Christ and the life of Saints.Icons are the visual Theology of the Church. They are windows into Heaven which show what is depicted as it will be in glory at the end of time. Icons can open our heart in love to Christ ,are
considered most a work of worship and additional a work of Art. The Icon is not just an element of a decoration only but a liturgical object within the Church .The Icon becomes a way for spiritual and bodily therapy just as the Bible in the Church becomes word of God..
In the Painter's Manual preserved on Mount Athos Greece the master advices him ..who aspires to become an icon painter to pray before the Icon of Christ and the Mother of God ,because the Art of painting comes from God, who alone can guided the Painter's hand to give form to the mysteries of God. The task of the iconographer is to spiritualize our tangible reality.
The icon have spiritual significance is understood when they are appreciated
not as idols but as symbols that " mediate God's presence to us." The Byzantine icon is not a specimen of aesthetic art but an expression of spirituality. An iconographer must paint and records in line and color the spiritual experience of someone else and also records his own authentic experience of God. The hand of the Iconographer is supposed to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Byzantine Art is really a way of life. It is a life of Victory over death and expresses eternal life and reveals the meaning of life now.
" The icon is a song of triumph and a veneration and an enduring monument to the Victory of the Saints and the disgrace of the Demons.
An icon seems to make visible the borderline between Heaven and Earth.We
don't have to be experts in art to tell at a glance that the Art of the icon is radically different from any other Art form.The Byzantine Art form which is expressed in an Icon ,seeks to portray the invisible made visible.We confess the salvation in deed and word and we depict it in the Holy Icons." If an unbeliever asks you about your religion ,lead him to the temple and place him in front of the icons."
St. John Damascus
Icons are words in painting .The honor shown to the Icon passes to the prototype it represents .The prototypes elevate us to them. The icons are entrances into another cosmos which is to be revealed in its fullness at the end of the time.
St. Basil the Great
Byzantine Art begins where ordinary Art ends. The Divinely inspired Art of Iconography is simple and profound ,as are all things in Orthodoxy,because they spring from the Gospels.The icon painter with his icons gives his personal mosaic tile, which must be in harmony completely in the mosaic of Orthodoxy.An icon conveys Theological meaning through mystical colors and forms. Icons carry the real feeling and teaching of Orthodoxy.
BYZANTINE GREEK ICONS
St Helen equal to the Apostles was the mother of the Emperor Constantine.She discovered in 326 the True Cross of Christ near the Jerusalem.
BYZANTINE ICON A GUIDING IMAGE
LET THE GATES OF GLORY OPEN WIDE...
"People fail to understand that we paint in order to experiment and to develop ourselves as we strive for greater heights"
"Paint the flying spirit of the bird rather than its feathers." Robert Henri
"In holy icons all about is being alive infused of
the living presence of the prototype."
Equal to the Apostles Emperor Saint Constantine the Great with his mother Helen present the Holy Cross the most prestigious wood the great sign which is awesome in battle .
Saint John the Forerunner
Saint Dimitrios the Great Duke the martyr in majesty with Jesus Christ .He is the patron Saint of Thessaloniki -Greece .
" Jesus Christ the Pantokrator - The Ruler of all " is the the most powerful icon of Christ in the world and the oldest surviving from
6th century and belongs to the Holy Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Catherine's in Mount Sinai,Egypt.
" In some ways i am a treasure hunder ,searching for that perfect moment of order that sometimes occurs in the midst of chaos" Diana Lehr
"For the things that are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18
Behold the Beauty of the Lord! Psalm 27:4 Praying visually...with icons.
" Blessed is the man who persevere under trial ; for when he has been approved he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised
to those who love Him."
" To send light into the darkness of men's hearts
, such is the duty of the artist." Robert Schuman
Saint Eirine the Great martyr.
YOU ARE THE PICTURE AND HEAVEN IS THE WATCHER
Saint Nickolaos the wonderworker.
" Every man who steeps himself in the spiritual possibilities of his heart is a valuable helper in the building of the spiritual pyramid which will someday reach to heaven" Wassily Kandisky
This icon type of the Virgin in which the two faces are touching cheek to cheek is known as the "Glykofilousa"
the sweet kissing and presents the Virgin in her role as mother and as protector of her infant and of the mankind.
Saint Constantine the Great equal to the Apostles.
In the eyes of every Christian Orthodox the Byzantine Holy Icon is more than an artwork is mainly a statement of faith and of a certain ethos
and has eternal principles.
Panagia Soumela icon.
"Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe." Saint Augustine
Hagia Sofia Church in clouds...the eternal symbol of Christianity and Orthodoxy.
"Jesus Christ The Utmost Humiliation"
Byzantine Greek icon.
Jesus Christ the light of the World .
Archangel Gabriel .
Saint Dimitrios horse back with the town of Thessaloniki .
"Painting is the grandchild of nature,it is related to God." Rembrant Van Rijn
"Fine art is that in which the hand,the head ,
& the heart of man go together." John Ruskin
" For most people ,art is only valuable if other
people say it is and artists are only worthwhile if
they are either rich and famous or dead ."
Wayne Gerard Trotman
"Art is a human activity having for it's purpose the trasmission to the others of the highest and best feelings to which men have risen." Leo Tolstoy
"Art should disturb the confortable and confort the disturbed." Bunsky
" The aim of art is to represent no the
outward apeareance of things, but the inward significance. Aristotle
"Are we to paint what's on the face,what's inside
the face ,or what's behind it ? Painting is another way of keeping a diary." Picasso
"The best and most beautiful things in the World cannot be seen,or even touched but most be felt with the heart." Helen Keller
"Every artist dips his brush in his own soul ,and paints his own nature into his picture."
"Art is a collaboration between God and the artist , and the less the artist does the better."
" I put my heart and my soul into my work ,
and have my mind lost in the process. The emotions are some times so strong that I work without knowing it.The strokes come like a speech."
Vincent Van Gogh
"True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist." "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.It is the source of all true art
and science ." Albert Einstein
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* The above text is an Anthology about Byzantine icons, an Iconology and a thoughtfull essay with the most important points from various Orthodox Theological and Art books I have studied regarding the Byzantine icons .I have to give my inner thanks to their writers of the books and studies for those fragrant words! All those points selected carefully combined and presented here with my
thoughts through the view of me as a humble icon painter for the glory of our God the Holy Trinity and for Educational purpose
in order to be available further and direct for all of those who are thirsty to find out what is the true meaning of Byzantine Holy Icons. I also accept responsibility for all my mistakes that are mine and are a lot ,due that my native language is Greek and in this medium I try to correct them once I become aware of them.I also update the text adding more for this Art.
Byzantine Greek Iconographer
"Art is not what you see but what you make others see." Edgar Degas
" The beauty and glory of real will reveal to those who persevere..."
" The Beauty will save the World! "
"JESUS CHRIST THE KING OF THE KINGS AND THE GREAT HIGH PRIEST , HOLY ICON "
Jesus Christ icon is the living God image and the crown of all icons.The highest Beauty and the Light of the
World. Taste and see...experience before understanding .(By the unworthy hand of Domna's, Greece 2003.)
Icons are windows into Heaven and mirrors to the Soul. Remember the Apostle Paul saying at Corinthians 2 epistle ``But we all ,with open face beholding as in a glass the Glory ,are changed into the same image from Glory ,even as by the Spirit of the Lord .``
The spatial context of the icon in the Byzantine world was the same as that of a mirror ,though the reflective surface ,it must be said of a spiritual and spiritualizing power.
For like a mirror the icon was in a symmetrical present -tense relationship with a gazing body and it needed that body to bring about its existence as icon.Without that body it was empty and void.With the gaze ,the icon was empowered to fill itself with that body and in the space created by gaze the icon transformation was promised and could realized.The gaze generated by a present body and reciprocated by an image ,is active and passive both ,and is the area between those gazes,the trafficked viewing paths of Byzantine devotion.
The Mandylion icons were there clearest and most complex realization of the description of Deification described by Apostle Paul at 2 Corinthians.The icon it`s optimal context was a mirror to the viewer`s gaze.The process of Deification ,promised though the Incarnation ,took place in the space between faces and its involved animation on both sides of the glass.
On the image`s side it`s media worked to make its gaze potent.
The mirroring of the icons is not a simple symmetry of gazes,but multiple in which the gazing body is led to recognize and absorb its spiritual content."The Soul is all eye ,all face ,all Glory and all Spirit" and the icon therefore also reveals interior and exterior identities of the gazing body .In that duality of presence on that icon.Images are often said to be markers of absence,but Byzantine icons constructed space where a gazing body always activated real presence.
``The Theotokos ,Virgin Mary is like a mirror reflecting the mighty works of God ,which has the task of illustrating.``
The Byzantine iconography was an area where luminous images came alive .God is a reality a living actuality (as enargeia) and the divine light is his presence.It operates internally affecting the senses and externally affecting sensory objects.Light exists in and through things.To see the divine light is to see God`s active presence in the world.
THEOPHANY IN ART
Manifestation ,manifest is the Greek word "Εμφάνισις "(emfanisis)meaning show openly ,appear ,to view,to show one`s self ,to disclose. Theophany is exactly what the word means ,τhe appeareance or revelation of God in the world.
At the new testament Saint John the Evangelist wrote the words of Christ : "He that hath my commandments and keepeth them ,he it is that loveth me and he that loveth me ,shall be loved of my Father and I will love him and will manifest myself to him."
The deified bodies of the Saints can be seen with bodily eyes transformed and filled with a radiant light. The painters
contemplation of icons and their divine subjects is intense and is presented here as " Theophany" and "Epiphany" in art. The painted figures radiate a joyful light that subjects the delicacy and fragility of their form and the presence of divine grace. This presence is manifested as joy,vivacity and illumination and we have the sense that we are in the presence of something actual and alive.
Byzantine Art brings Theophany to the senses and is itself transfigured in the process.The icon painter with his spiritual eyes contemplated spiritual beauty and paints spiritual realities without the mediation of art which is why no models need to be placed before him.Byzantine Iconography is not just art but more has become a living reality.In this kind of Art ,Byzantine icon's colors is the language of the Soul ,it is where psychic and physical realities meet.
Colors becomes energy and like a music has a tonality and stimulates the Soul and the ensuing energy opens the door of transcendent.
The eye strongly attracted by light ,clear colors and still more strongly by colors that are warm as well as clear and pure. Like vermilion (red )stimulates like a flame which has always fascinated human beings. The boundaries between picture ,painter and viewer are fluid.Colors like feeling travel between the painters mind and the forming image.Powerful chromatic sensations get hold of the Artist unannounced.Through divine grace ,the wood ,paint ,pigments are transformed into sacred images and mirrors of the divine. Icons were channels of charis (χάρις)) divine grace ,and even other objects that came into contact with them were imbued with the icon`s spiritual powers. Similarly it was believed that when elements as oil (or myrr) came into contact with Holy Icons ,relics (like St. Dimitrios myrr ) or places ,they too became impregnated with a powerfull spiritual charisma.
Icons appear as a light from Heaven.It is opening the ability to see by spiritual sight .Then we read in them the message from the Gospel in the reverse from Ω to A from the end to the begining.This reading brings for us the possibility to follow deeper and deeper the idea of highest Beauty and in the end of this to come close to the idealistic Beàuty of the light of God. A transcription of icons based on the philosophical and Theological ideas by Aristotle and Saint Basil the Great .
An authentic icon can be of any age from 6th century to the present day. The role of the icons especially in the Orthodox Church is much wider than only the liturgical one. A lot of people belong to the Orthodox Church without actively beleiving or practicing their faith. It is a big mistake therefore to think that Christianity and Orthodoxy believes in icons and worship panels ,wood and colors.The observer is not standing before materials but before what has been made holy,precious,glorified and sacred through participation in the celestial energy of the saint whose person the icon shows forth and whose name it bears. You have before you the person iconized .You unite with him,you discover him,you encounter him,you greet him with the lips,with the eyes,with the heart ."Icons should be venerated and kissed with eyes,lips and heart." (Saint John Damascus)
It is He who gives us the capacity to paint icons ,to theologize,to live.He is the way and the door . God created the Human capacity for communication through the arts and He empowered us to be creativelly expressive . "Art is a recognizable language understood by all" it provides a way for experience one's self in relation to the universe and enhance our sense of our richness of Human life and refresh ,direct all of us to the ultimate source of truth,good and beauty of God..Artistic creativity and beauty are the gifts of God and their funcion is to glorify God uplifting the human's mind and soul into the reality of Heaven.Byzantine Iconography is an increasingly powerfull tool based on the idea of salvation of the soul ,and is thoroughly in the service of Theology.Through the icons the observer receives the devine favour and through them his mind is raised up to the Heavens.
Mystically the icons are a visual language and like a window you are invited to a passage through the icon you can enter into a
spiritual realm which is the reality that lies behind the icon.
" The Second coming of Christ " 16th cent. (96x 127 cm ,egg tempera and gold leaf ). Post Byzantine icon by the Greek icon painter Giorgio Klotzas the Cretan.www.institutoellenico.org
Jesus Christ the "Pantepoptis" Monastery Iviron ,Holy Mount Athos, Greece.
Holy icon of Theofanis the Cretan one of the most famous icon painter and a monk ,representative of the Cretan school of Icon painting. Today we can see portable icons and murals of Theofani in the Monastery of Stavronikita in Holy Mount Athos and in the Monastery of Saint Nickolaos Anapafsas in Meteora in Greece.
"Hodigitria Mother of God with Angels,holy post byzantine icon ".
Cretan school of icon painting (egg tempera and gold leaf ). Greek Icon painter Andreas Ritzos .Post Byzantine icon of Crete whose capital was Candia and the Venetians controled until 1669.1400-1700 ce ,the Cretan School of icon painting emerged as the leading center of the Greek iconography in Europe. Candia as they called these days was the location of the most sophisticated painter's atelier in the Mediterranean in 15th Century.