Sunday, April 9, 2017

Almost Easter

Next week is Easter and I will be busy getting the house and food ready for a family celebration.  Thinking of Easter, being a Christian holiday,  reminded me of the photos of Greek wooden icons I took a couple of years ago on a visit to various Byzantine sites in Turkey, Greece and Italy.   Without Easter (the Resurrection) there would be no Christian religion and no Christian icons.  I am older and wiser now, but when I first encountered icons in Greece, I didn't understand their use at all.  I could tell they were religious, but I thought of them more as decorative objects.  Every Greek home had them and there were many, many shops selling them to Greeks and tourists alike. I purchased a couple to hang in our house. One is of St. George and the Dragon.  I think mine was made for the tourist market.  A few years ago, Barry made some new bookshelves for our house and I saved the best leftover oak for art projects.  The first thing I painted was a copy of a mosaic icon in the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.  It hangs in our house as art.   Recent visits to many Byzantine museums and Greek, Russian and Serbian Orthodox churches have educated me to the true purpose of the icon (an aid to worship), but seeing these in a museum setting, I was interested in them as art.  I would like to copy some more, and I definitely have favorites.

I have a friend who knows a lot more about icons than I do and she has a friend who actually paints them following the traditional "formula".  Here are a few things I've learned recently:

St. Luke is believed to be the first painter of the Virgin Mary.  He was a well-educated man who studied grammar, rhetoric, poetry, ethics and logic.  He was a physician and painter who lived his last days in a Roman province near Corinth, Greece.  Two monasteries claim to have icons of the Virgin:  Hodegon Monastery in Constantinople and Soumela Monastery located on the cliff face of Mt. Melas in Asia Minor.

The Orthodox Church believes that the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the use of images--educational and worshipping aids.  The faith of the person who prays is above the aesthetic qualities of an icon.

Creating an icon is more reproduction than an artistic creation and yet it is not a simply copying from others.  The iconographer uses prototypes but the iconographer's individual spirituality is present in the creation.  A Russian monk remarked once that "....icons are not civil paintings.  They are not for museums.  They are not decorations.  They are a reflection of God that has become man.  Icons carry the real feeling and teachings of Orthodoxy."

The icons pictured below are in a museum:  The Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki, Greece.  Their icon collections covers several periods.  The last one pictured seems too sensuous to be orthodox.  I will have a chance to visit this museum again in November.  I will check the date on that one.

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