Tag Archives: Icons

Guest Post: Black St. George Icon by Joy of Museums

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Thank you to Joy of Museums for the following article discussing this beautiful St. George icon.

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Black Saint George Icon

This icon of Saint George has become known as ‘The Black George’ because the horse is painted black rather than the white horse that has traditionally been used for St George Icons. Russia converted to Christianity in 988, and much of its religious art was inspired by the Byzantine tradition. This icon made in 1400 was discovered in 1959 in a village in northern Russia where it was being used as a window-shutter.

The Black George icon depicts Saint George and the Dragon which legends describe the saint slaying a dragon that demanded human sacrifices and thereby rescuing the princess chosen as the next offering. Some icons depicting the saint as a horseman killing the dragon date to the 12th century. The motif became popular especially in Greek, Georgian and Russian icon traditions. The saint is depicted in the style of a Roman cavalryman, and the saint is mostly shown on a white horse, facing right, but sometimes also on a black horse, or facing left. From its Eastern origins, it was introduced into the Western Christian tradition by the Crusades.

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I is for Icon

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Christ

Christ, 6th Century

An icon (from Greek εἰκών eikōn “image”) is a religious work of art, usually a portrait-style painting, used in Eastern Orthodox churches and homes. The most common subjects are Christ, Mary, and saints.

Menas

Christ and St. Menas, 6th Century

Eastern Orthodox tradition holds that the creation of Christian images dates back to the very early days of Christianity, and identifies Luke the Evangelist as the first icon painter. Icons can only be traced back as far as the 3rd century A.D. The icons of later centuries can be linked, often closely, to images from the 5th century onwards, though very few of these survive.

 

St. Peter

St. Peter, 6th Century

Though the Roman Catholic church encouraged religious art, other Christian denominations are wary about the veneration of “graven images,” forbidden in the commandments (see Exodus 20:4). Even the Orthodox church outlawed images at times. During 726-842, the Byzantine Iconoclasm destroyed most existing icons.

Madonna of Czestochowska

Black Madonna of Czestochowa, symbol of Poland

The iconographer is expected prepare himself for his work by following a strict discipline of fasting and prayer. Painting the icon is not a use of imagination. Instead, the icon is painted using the prescribed regimen and style passed down through the centuries. Everything from the facial expressions to the colors used is predetermined. It is understood that a person who saw him in the flesh painted the first icon of an individual; each subsequent iconographer will use the original icon as a guide.

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Theotokos of Vladimir, 12th Century, symbol of Russia

Icons depict silence; no actions displayed, no open mouths. The icon invites the Christian to enter into contemplation, prayer, and silence. Space is not defined as three-dimensional and time is insignificant. Lighting proceeds from the character portrayed in the icon. There are never shadows in icons. And since the icon’s purpose is to lead the believer into worship, the artist never signs his work.

Angel Gabriel

Archangel Gabriel, 12th Century

 

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Holy Trinity, 1699. I don’t know why the Godhead is depicted with angel’s wings.

Information for this article was taken from:

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