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Posted 27 January 2010 - 12:04 AM
: If the image literally *were* Christ, we'd be running into some very big problems here, theologically speaking.
Perhaps. But you do at least recognize that if, say, someone were to step on a picture of YOU -- and especially one that had been painted by a loved one and dedicated to you etc. -- you might not be inclined to say, "Oh, well, it's just chemicals on canvas." (And while I don't think anyone believes that icons ARE Christ in the same way that, say, the bread and wine of Communion are the Body and Blood of Our Lord, you do run into interesting situations when it comes to icons that weep, or icons that heal people, etc., etc. Are they JUST paintings? Hmmm...)
: The controversy brought about a decisive change in the iconography of the Orthodox church. There's an abstract, heiratic quality to icons post-controversy, in sharp contrast to the kinds of things you can see in many of the icons that survived at St. Catherine's. That was supposed to satisfy the concerns about idolatry and delineate (no pun intended) the proper use of images in worship, both public and private.
Yes, this is also why we Eastern types don't have sculptures. Too "realistic", too close to "idolatry", etc.
Posted 27 January 2010 - 10:39 AM
This same attitude and belief informed and still does inform the the belief that Jesus himself, in some way is made present in the icon, and that if you honor the icon, you honor him and if you desecrate the icon, you dishonor him.
I have read quite a bit about iconoclasm and I don't remember reading anything about how naturalistically an image was portrayed being an issue. I always thought the issue was the fact that it was an image at all, not how the image was painted. I would like to read about that. Do you have a source?
I actually think the internet is a very good metaphor for icons. If you think of the server as being God or a saint and your computer being the icon. Just like all sorts of information can come to numerous people simultaneously through the internet from the server God's graces can come through the icon to the person venerating it. You are aware that your computer is not the source of the information but you interact with it as if it is. Same with an icon; you do not actually venerate the wood and pigment but what the wood and pigment represent, or make present.
In any event, an image created to aid in worship is considered a sacred image while those images not created to aid in worship are not considered sacred.
Posted 27 January 2010 - 12:50 PM
Don't get me wrong - I understand what's being said about the emotional impact of images, of defiling them, etc. But that is more about our loyalties and what we hold dear than it is about God himself. (I'm not saying that to be critical; just thinking about the fact that things, whether it's icons or Bibles or whatever, tend to have great emotional power for us.)
As for the question of realism in early icons, I'm following the line - of somewhat speculative reasoning - that I learned back when. A number of other icons from the St. Catherine's collection are pretty naturalistic (portrait-like), though I'm not sure if any of them come close to the icon of Peter mentioned above. There are precedents for this in the Fayum portraits... Again, since so many images were destroyed, we're left with very little to go on re. the actual pieces that the Iconoclasts were against. (And surely there had to be concrete, visible reasons for their objections...)
In the book I mentioned above, Belting has a whole chapter on how funerary portraits where the precursors of icons of the saints. He compares one of the Fayum portraits with an 11th c. icon of st Phillip: Likeness and Presence: Funerary portraits
Posted 27 January 2010 - 12:59 PM
Which is a legitimately sacramental approach to art that has a rich cultural tradition. But I guess part of the problem with defining sacred and Christian art is that different theological systems have different understandings of where art fits into the ritual practice of the church. I am more interested in seeing a Christian artist working coherently and intentionally within their theological rationale, wherever they fall on the scale between the sacramental and prophetic. What bugs me the most are artists with blase or careless attitudes towards the religious implications of their work.