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Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Iconoclastic Movement

Icon art, a painted image of a religious figure or event, especially a painted panel that is characteristic of the Eastern Christian church. The term icon art is derived from the Greek eikenai, ”to resemble,” and refers to an image believed to be sacred in itself that can aid in contacting the represented figure.

During the early Christian period, after the 4th century, the term icon art was applied to all religious art, including mosaics, reliefs, and paintings. Few early painted icons survive, but a small group of 6th- and 7th-century encaustic (wax) paintings on wooden panels, from the Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai, show realistic, lifelike faces animated by large eyes and intense expressions.

For prvate devotions, small icons were made, frequently in the form of miniature mosaics such as Saint John Chrysostom (early 14th century) in the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.

The iconoclastic movement starting in the 8th century, which condemned icons art as idolatry, led to the destruction of much religious art throughout the Byzantine Christian world, and it was not until the next century that icons were restored to their former position of honor in religious observance.

Painted icons art of Christ, the Virgin, and various saints—often grouped into an iconostasis, or large screen—became the primary religious images of the Byzantine, Greek Orthodox, and Russian Orthodox churches. To avoid the taint of idolatry, they were created with a formalized, deliberately stylized aspect that emphasized otherworldliness rather than human feeling or sentimentality.

Gold-leaf backgrounds were common, and strongly geometric designs—emphasizing either angularity or long, sinuous curves—were favored. Although painters of icons art usually remained anonymous, two exceptions, Andrey Rublyov and Theophanes the Greek, are known. These artists, active in the late 14th and early 15th centuries in Russia, represent the supreme achievement in icon art painting, and their work combines spiritual grace and technical excellence in a synthesis that was never again equaled.

Anne Ahira
Editor The Best Affiliate Newsletter


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