Icons Represent the “Person” Of The Subject
In western art, images are generally representative of the nature of the subject. In other words, a painting illuminates certain physical features of a subject that allow a viewer to make certain, primarily subjective judgments about that subject. This is because most art focuses on the physical or the nature of the subject. Art that focuses on the nature of the subject only has the options of humanity or divinity. An Orthodox understanding of icon is significantly different from either of these perspectives. According to Ouspensky, it is very dangerous to try to represent either of these in art.37 Rather, the icon portrays the person of the subject.38 The icon is linked to the prototype not because it attempts to be an identical representation of the prototype. “The icon is joined to its prototype because it portrays the person and caries his name. This is precisely what makes communion with the represented person possible, what makes him known.”39 When one renders honor to the image, one is rendering honor to the prototype. Because of this, exact physical representation of the subject is not crucial. So the icon is not essentially an image, but an anti-image. In a sense, for example, this is the opposite of the shroud of Turin, which is said to be an exact replica. “Because it (the icon) is less than an image, it is infinitely more.”40 Icons of Christ portray the person of Christ, not just the physical image which might result in either the lessening of his humanity or divinity. This does seem in sharp contrast to the Orthodox understanding of the origination of the icon by Christ himself through the Acheiropoietos, which is more like the shroud of Turin. While the possibility exists that the image made without hands was not a precise physical replication, it remains somewhat inconsistent.
37 Ouspensky, 1992, p. 125.
38 Ibid, p. 125)
39 Ibid, p. 127)
40 Gennadios Limouris, [Blancy]. Icons, Windows on Eternity: Theology and Spirituality in Colour. (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1990), p. 41)
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