Today’s quick takes all relate to icons, including stories from the Holy Land to Russia to the United States.
The Bethlehem Icon center was founded to provide training to Christians living in Palestine to become icon painters, providing them with the means to support themselves, and also producing high quality icons in the Holy Land. (I previously posted about the Center here)
Here’s a report from CNEWA on the first class at the Bethlehem Icon Center:
The bearded face of Christ takes shape in burnt sienna on a dozen sheets of white paper: a dozen variations with a dozen irregular sets of features. Some of the students are established artists, others have little or no artistic training, but this new craft is a challenge for all of them. They work through mistakes and false starts, scowling and sighing in frustration.
The instructor is patient, demonstrating the basics again and again — how to draw a line with a brush, how to mix the paint, how to find a face in a sheet of white. “Move the paper so it’s easier to draw,” he explains. “Work to your strengths, and know your weaknesses — which is a good spiritual principle! Because what you’re doing is learning spiritual life, really — in a very practical way.” - source
- CNEWA in-depth article
The Orthodox Arts Journal has followed up a previous feature about miniature enamel icons (which I previously mentioned here) with an in-depth interview with the Russian enamel miniaturist, Evgeny Baranov. The article contains many fascinating details about the re-emergence of the icon tradition in Russia after the fall of Communist rule:
Then fortunately a miracle happened – Greek merchants came to Russia. They needed traditional enamel. Artists immediately woke up – they had orders, they had work – they again were able to earn something. Greeks seemed strange at that time, because they needed icon-painting and those artists with a lack of money and orders jumped in. After years of the Soviet Union there were no good literature and art albums about icons. Some artists tried to make replicas from small pictures at the back side of the pocket calendars, where they could hardly recognize details and texts. So they imagined some missed details by themselves! But Greeks (regular re-sellers) did not know the ropes about icons either and took almost everything, especially they were interested in the cheapest pieces.
Then a very remarkable change happened in my life: I was baptized. I became the only Orthodox Christian among all of my relatives, including even my grandmother, who was religious, but Lutheran, not Orthodox. I started attending church, fasting and collecting rare books related to Orthodox art. Then one day I came upon an album of excellent quality reproductions, and it was the collection of works of Archimandrite Zeno. The art of Orthodox icon was revealed to me in all its beauty and grandeur, once and for all I lost interest in any of other arts. Icons have given me both spiritual fulfillment, and an enormous aesthetic pleasure. I knew what I wanted to do next. I wanted to draw icons, but smaller… and on enamel.
There was only one problem: it was totally unclear how to put such a complicated picture as an icon onto such a complicated surface as enamel. - source
read the entire interview on the Orthodox Arts Journal
In a July column in First Things, Maureen Mullarkey mused about icons and how they differ from Western paintings:
That which is experienced in contemplation arises from the iconographer’s own prayer life, not his subconscious. It originates in the spiritual realm, not the psychological one. An icon is not “art” in the Western sense; not simply theology in paint. It is, in its making, an act of prayer. Witness to eternity, it beckons the viewer to participate in its antecedent: divine reality. In Florensky’s word: “An icon remembers its prototype.” It draws the meditative viewer onto a path of recollection.
read the whole piece, “Ad Gustum” on First Things
fresco of St. Arnold, patron saint of brewers -source
St. Arnold Brewing Company has an icon fresco painted by an iconographer from Russia. The story is fascinating:
It is traditional for breweries in France and Belgium to have a statue, painting or icon of St. Arnold in order to bless the brewery and all of the beer made there. We had sought a likeness of St. Arnold without any success. Then we read an article in the New York Times (March 18, 2000) about Father Andrey Davydov. He is a Russian Orthodox priest in Pskov, Russia. This being the age of the web, we e-mailed him. …
In January 2001, Fr. Andrey sent us a list of materials needed for the fresco. These included year old slaked lime and marble dust – not your everyday items. We called around, discussed slaked lime plaster with old time plasterers (lime is rarely used today in building) and finally found everything needed. On February 1, 2001, Fr. Andrey and his son, Phillip, arrived in Houston after a 20 hour flight. …
In painting a fresco, there is a 50 hour window from when you begin applying the plaster to when the painting is completed. That window began at about 10:00 PM Friday night. …
The glue for putting the gold leaf on was Fancy Lawnmower Beer. In fact, in Russia gold leaf is sometimes called “beer leaf” because of this. [That] evening, the news returned to observe as Andrey conducted a benediction of the fresco which, much to my alarm, included throwing holy water on the fresco. These water marks are visible today. With the benediction concluded, Father Andrey and Phillip headed back to Russia.
There are many more details; read the whole thing on the Orthodox Arts Journal site
- Fr. Anrdrei (Andrey) Davidov’s facebook page
- St. Arnold Brewing Company site
Andrei Rublev, Angels and Mamre (also called “Holy Trinity” or “Three Angels Visiting Abraham” or “Hospitality of Abraham”), c. 1410-25. Tempera on wood, 142 cm × 114 cm (56 in × 45 in) - source
You can read reflections on the famous icon The Hospitality of Abraham painted by Andrei Rublev on the art history blog Alberti’s Window: Rublev’s “Holy Trinity”
The post points out the various symbols in the icon signifying the three Persons of the Holy Trinity and their essential unity.
If you want to send an icon-related e-greeting card, you can do so with iconograms from the Greek Orthodox Church in America site whose mission
… is to follow the commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ who said: “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mark 16.15). As a part of this ministry, we have created ICONOGRAMS.org, a FREE Orthodox e-card service.
As of September 2013, a total of 469,668 Iconograms have been sent out to people all over the world!
You can search the site by date or feast and find corresponding icon, and can send it to an email address.
- image source
A replica of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa is in the midst of a worldwide tour. It was recently in Spain:
A replica image of Our Lady of Czestochowa is currently traveling throughout Spain on a pro-life and pro-family pilgrimage that will span 24 countries and more than 18,000 miles.
Dubbed “From Ocean to Ocean,” the tour began last September in Vladivostok on Russia’s Pacific coast and will conclude at the Shrine of Fatima on the Atlantic coast of Portugal.
Organizers of the tour hope that “the number of people who discover and defend the dignity of the human being from conception to natural death will continuously increase.”
The icon has arrived in North America and will be on tour on this side of the Atlantic until late 2014.
The National Catholic Register article about the icon’s journey in Spainhttp://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/our-lady-of-czestochowa-icon-touring-spain#ixzz2JiDUhu7j
The icon tour’s English site.
For more quick takes from bloggers near and far, check out this week’s linkup hosted by Jen of Conversion Diary