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Russian Orthodox Icons - Essay Example

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The icon and its functions in Russian religion and culture. Within Christianity the use of icons as a focus for reflection and worship has a very long history. In the fifth century, for example, St. Nilus of Sinai (died c. 430) recommended that icons be placed in Christian churches as a way of helping illiterate people to understand and remember items of the faith…
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Download file to see previous pages In each case the artefact has a clear and deliberate connection with Christian doctrine. The way the icon is constructed reveals its function within a Christian context: “The image is reduced to a minimum of detail and a maximum of expressiveness. The great majority of figures are represented with their faces turned towards the congregation, for the importance lies not only in the action and interaction of the persons represented, but also in their state, which is usually a state of prayer.” Ouspensky and Losskym, 1982, p. 27) The inclusion of the person looking at the icon is a particular feature of this art form, and it explains why so many believers developed a strong and intimate connection with particular icons. In the Russian Orthodox area there is has been particularly large selection of different icons available over many centuries, and this demonstrates how complex Russian religious experience has been. The icons in Russia are not just images: they are accompanied by an inscription: “Without the identifying inscription there can, in general, be no icon, just as there can be no icon without the representation: worship is directed equally both to the image and the name.” (Uspenskii, 1976, p. ...
.” (Ouspensky and Lossky, 1982, p. 37) As time went on, and the memory chain of tradition grew longer, special guide books or podlinniks were made, which recorded all the relevant saint’s days, and holidays, with specific colors and instructions for recording particular scenes and personalities. The Orthodox Church, more than any other branch of Christianity, has kept more faithful connections with the earliest Christian calendar, and the special services and saints days that belong to it. The icons all have their special places in the Orthodox annual rituals. From the second half of the 16th century the aim of the official Orthodox and Catholic churches to strengthen popular religiosity coincided with the demarcation and broadening of the sphere of religious art. (Tarazov and Milner-Gulland, 2002, p. 201) In the 17th century there was increasing attention to the ornamental function of the icon, and to the fashioning of elaborate frames, using craft skills rather than fine art skills. Because the Renaissance left Russia largely untouched, there was a continuation of medieval styles in the painting. In the 18th to the early 20th centuries there was a dramatic increase in the volume of secular craft icon painting. In this period there was increasing contact with the Western and the icon makers began to adopt Western styles. The features that now appeared in icons were “chiaroscuro, foreshortening, direct perspective and various illusionistic effects in general” (Uspenskii, 1976, p. 24) All of the most popular Western master painters from previous centuries were eagerly imitated, including Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Cranach etc. (Tarazo and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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