Canterbury Press £14.99 (1-85311-657-2) Church Times
THIS LAVISHLY illustrated guide to Eastern Christian iconography explains
the historical development and theological significance of Christian icons as
well as the traditional methods used by painters down the centuries to create
these works of spirituality and art.
Trained in Russian Orthodox icon-painting in Finland, the author is an art
historian and freelance speaker, whose iconography is displayed in such places
as Ayles-ford Priory in England and St Paul’s Church in Bergen, Norway. The
book has descriptions of both of these.
The book, originally published in 2004 by Eastern Christian Publications of
Fairfax, Virginia, opens with observations and insights into the meaning and
purpose of icons, including remarks on the relationship between beauty and
truth, as well as the Church as microcosm, incarnation, and celebration of the
divine image in the world.
Nevertheless, the strength of this book lies not in the theological
dimensions, and even less in the historical perspectives of Orthodox
iconography. Rather, it is found
in the discussion of the techniques of icon-painting, and in the
exploration of the range of iconographic motifs, as well as the detailed
presentation of more than 50 icons.
While not stated explicitly, the icons shown in this book are works produced
over the past 20 years by the author herself, in a number of variants of
significant Orthodox icons. The icons range in techniques and schools from
Greece (Crete, Macedonia, and Cyprus) and Russia (particularly Novgorod) to
Serbia (Studenica and Decani) and Bulgaria.
Aside from the more traditional examples of icons — Christ Pantokrator, the
Deesis triptych, the Mandylion (or Holy Napkin), the Old Testament Trinity, the
Mother of God Platytera, the Baptism and Transfiguration of Christ, and saints
— the book treats certain uncommon iconographical types, such as the
Sophiological icon of Christ of Silence, the Nursing Mother of God, the Mother
of God Pelagonitissa with Playful Infant, and the Melkite variant of Joseph
with the Child Jesus.
There is also a description of an Epitaphios and a processional cross, the
latter having been prepared in 1990 for the Bergen Church for the Deaf.
The book ends with a list of exhibitions by the author-iconographer, a
biographical note, and a select bibliography.
The Revd Dr John Chryssavgis is Professor of Theology at Hellenic
College in Boston, Massachusetts.
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